A Supersized New Control
In these days of direct mail marketing, the phrase "break through the clutter" takes on an entirely new meaning. Not all bells and whistles work for all marketers, all the time. Attention-getting techniques, creative, design and formats get tired after a while. One might say in order to get noticed, you have to think big.
Recently, the Who's Mailing What! Archive has received oversized mailings from Exclusive Resorts, Greenbrier and the American Lung Association, to name a few. Each effort towers over the average piece culled from the lot of March mail. One, in particular, comes to us from the Life Extension Foundation, an alternative health publisher and product-supplier based in Florida. The nonprofit organization was in the mail with its new control package in Marcha 105/8" x 13", four-color, 12-page magalog effort (202LIFEXT0304).
According to Rey Searles, director of marketing for Life Extension, the shift to this type of oversized effort from a previous control package that consisted of a plain, white #10 carrier envelopewith all the standard elementswas spurred by the competition.
"We keep track of what health mailers in a similar space are doing [in the mail]," Searles says, commenting that this is the first time his organization has tested such an oversized acquisition package. "A lot of them use this format quite regularly. ... And we were in a crunch to find a new control. The response rate [of the previous control] had degraded to the point that it was becoming too costly to mail."
Life Extension's "big" appeal first hit prospects' mailboxes in July 2003, and since then, it has beat the previous control in several back-tests, Searles shares. "We were originally going to go larger, but our printer came back to us and said if we trim one inch, we would save money. Obviously, I receive [direct mail] at home, and our mailing, when it comes to me, comes as the outer wrapper to all other mail," he says, explaining that the trimmed size didn't hurt the piece's impact.
The effort fetches prospects' attention immediately. The cover features compelling stock images of doctors and scientists working away in labs, with the accompanying bright yellow headline: "Bridging the Gap Between Science & Medicine." Below, an image of Life Extension's spotlighted book, "Disease Prevention and Treatment: Scientific Protocols that Integrate Mainstream and Alternative Medicine" is shown and accompanied by easy-to-read sans-serif body copy. (The book is the premium used to convince prospects to become members of the foundation.) Inside, the organization has tactfully presented its content in 13-point typeface.
"Our membership tends to skew older. The majority of them are over 55," says Searles. "We've received complaints from [recipients] in the past that the type was too small in a direct mail piece. So that was a consideration with this [effort]."
One might think of this package as cost-prohibitive, what with the larger size and four-color process. According to Searles, this membership mailing represents more of a loss in the beginning. "Our hope is that once someone becomes a member, they'll start buying the line of vitamins and supplements we offer," he says. "We find that over a period of three to six months, a successful mailing will pay for itself."