Blockbuster Direct Mail
Another interesting note is that the publishers using billboard efforts can't beat them; Smithsonian, Islands and PC World all have been mailing such controls for a decade or longer.
The range of envelope formats used by Grand Control winners runs the gamut, from #10 and #11 to 6˝ x 9˝, 6˝ x 11˝, 9˝ x 12˝ and many other non-standard sizes.
Slight Preference for Contests
Without a doubt, mailers shrank from sweepstakes and contests after Congress enacted tougher legislation regulating these promotions in 1999. But these response-building tools are still a viable way to add excitement to many a direct marketing offer.
Grand Control campaigns were 50 percent more likely to include a sweepstakes or contest than all other direct mail efforts dropped in the past decade. Of the winning mailings that relied on a sweepstakes to get results, those from publishers leaned toward Fast 50 contests to urge prospects to respond immediately, while fundraising organizations and merchandise marketers favored large cash prizes and raffles.
Interested in what goodies were ponied up to Fast 50 winners? The Economist mailed a PalmPilot contest for several years, while Smithsonian tested into a digital camera after offering a counter-top television for years.
Four-color vs. Black-and-white
Mailing in four-color is the standard for direct mail today. The majority of Grand Controls that are printed in two- or three-color typically originated in the 1990s. The exceptions to this rule are professional discount vouchers mailed heavily by publishers. But even some of these efforts have progressed to include four-color buckslips to promote the magazine or premium offers.
What's interesting to study are the hold-outs, companies who continue to mail two-color and three-color controls year after year. Among these are Project HOPE, Johns Hopkins Health After 50, The Wilderness Society, GE Financial Assurance and International Living. What these companies have in common is a sales hook that is rooted more in what the product can do for customers than what it looks like. This is especially true of efforts from fundraisers like Project HOPE and The Wilderness Society, which use narrative copy and interactive devices, as opposed to photos, to underscore their mission. And the five-year control for Johns Hopkins Health After 50 newsletter wisely limits the use of graphics to keep recipients focused on the detailed letter copy needed to describe a copy-rich newsletter product.