Acing the Test
The staff of Inside Direct Mail recently got a sneak preview of two tests from E – The Environmental Magazine, a magalog and a 6˝ x 9˝ package. While both impressed some of us admittedly “green” editors, the magalog succeeded on many different levels as well, including format, copy, premium and offer (Archive code #202-431593-0704).
Apparently, it also worked for prospects. “The magalog was the clear winner,” confirms Greg Wolfe, president of the magazine’s South Norwalk, Conn.–based circulation management provider Circulation Specialists Inc., and who now expects to roll out the E – The Environmental Magazine magalog in September. Using lists from other magazines in the same category as well as from some nonprofits (the publication is categorized as a nonprofit), the campaign went out to 50,000 homes in two formats, each promoting a test price of either $10 or $19.95. “We got close to 3 percent with the $10 magalog, which is good for any magazine and, for this category, is excellent,” reveals Wolfe. Both packages beat the previous control, and the 12-page, 8˝ x 10-3/4˝ magalog clobbered the past effort four times over.
Although it previously had done as much as it could in-house or at a bargain, E – The Environmental Magazine was not having any luck with its direct mail, comments Wolfe. It first tested a couple of pieces—a statement-of-benefit voucher-type package and a double postcard with a survey—that didn’t require much creative expertise and had beaten controls for approximately 10 of Circulation Specialists’ past clients. Neither, however, were effective for E.
“The biggest departure was that we convinced the publisher, before giving up on direct mail, to invest in really excellent creative. So we went to Ken Schneider, who most people put on the top-five list of magazine direct mail writers in the country,” explains Wolfe. While Schneider came with a hefty price tag that the publisher was unaccustomed to paying, he also delivered a package that the publisher loved.
Throughout the magalog, Schneider goes to unusual lengths to showcase the diversity of content and reader appreciation that E – The Environmental Magazine generates. He began with the magalog cover, which features four distinct covers—visually as well as editorially—and a fiery red box in the middle with the words, “You’ve been selected to enjoy a FREE PREVIEW and get a FREE GIFT.”
The first interior page is a letter from the magazine’s executive editor, who hits on the big issue of the day—a person’s so-called “ecological footprint.” Rather than scold, however, the letter stresses the “empowering information” the publication provides; page two goes even further, beginning with, “Far from a doom-and-gloom magazine, E – The Environmental Magazine is all about awareness and practical advice.”
Unique elements include frequent callout boxes for the preview and premium that pop up throughout the magalog, as well as the low subscription price. “E had always stuck around the $20 mark, but we convinced the publisher that it might be worthwhile looking at a very low intro price,” asserts Wolfe.
Lastly, they also added a premium, “The E Guide to Green Cars,” that struck a strong chord with numerous recipients. The personalized reservation card gave two options, “Payment enclosed. Send my free gift right away” or “Bill me later. Send my free gift when I pay”—and many choose the former because of this premium. “The piece is a soft offer with a free issue, but we got a tremendous amount of cash up front, about 40 percent paid with order,” says Wolfe.
The coup de grace of the piece was the combination of reader and press testimonials, in addition to a long list of awards the magazine has garnered over the years.