A Hybrid Call to Action
In 1938, when Orson Welles adapted H.G. Wells’ novel, “The War of the Worlds,” for radio, it sounded like a real-time news broadcast. Millions of listeners went door-to-door notifying their neighbors of the “invasion,” causing a panic.
The influence that peers had on one another during Welles’ broadcast is an early predecessor to the word-of-mouth campaigns marketers use today.
Netflix, the world’s largest online movie rental service, has built word-of-mouth into its direct marketing campaigns using a tell-a-friend direct mail offer. The offer must travel from the Netflix member’s mailbox, into a friend’s hands and then finally push that friend online in order to close the loop. It is a combined multichannel and word-of-mouth effort at play.
In March, Netflix mailed the tell-a-friend offer to current customers in a 4-3⁄4˝ x 7˝ three-paneled self-mailer. “The tell-a-friend campaign … that’s an extension of the members evangelizing the service themselves; we’re facilitating that evangelism,” says Steve Swasey, VP of corporate communications at the company’s Los Gatos, Calif., headquarters (Archive code #127-692231-0805E).
To get members to open the piece, copy on the back of the outer panel announces, “You Get Free Movies When Your Friends Try Netflix.” Inside the postcard are four spot-glued “Free Month Trial” cards, each with a URL and unique priority code for redeeming the offer. For each trial card activated by a friend, a member receives one extra DVD in her stream of rentals.
Ease of use makes the offer work, as the cards are passed along from the direct mail recipient to a network of friends and family. “The wallet card … it’s designed so people can put it in their pocket, or put it in their purse and when it comes up in conversation, say, ‘Oh well here it is,’” Swasey illustrates. After distributing the card, the burden lies with the Netflix member, who may follow up with an encouraging call or e-mail to his card-holding friends to persuade them to activate the free trial offer, so the member can receive free movies.