Blockbuster in the Making
As we've said before, it's not too often that the "big bang" theory can be applied to long-term controls. Usually, marketers create their best efforts as the result of many tests and tweaks that build up to the desired effect.
Scientific American magazine appears to be working its way down this path by leveraging the results of copy and design tests for its posterboard and triple postcard efforts. Over the past two years, the Archive has received four triple postcards and one posterboard self-mailer from this magazine, all with the same offer and premium combo.
If you can get the posterboard format to perform for you, this is a good way to rotate your creative approach without having to come up with two entirely different packages. For example, Scientific American simply takes the triple postcard out of the posterboard effort and mails it on its own for a lower cost alternative. Let's note, however, that the triple postcard measures 47/8" x 6", which means it no longer qualifies for postcard rates; instead, it mails at Bulk Rate. The smaller BRC panel does meet the 41/4" x 6" dimensions required for Business Reply Mail postcard rates.
What has Scientific American learned over the past 24 months? Well, it appears that the triple postcard pulls best with a letter. The larger format allows Scientific American to break with tradition, and run a letter on the inside panels, but still leave room for graphics, such as magazine covers. That was the set-up for the triple postcards received in June and December of 1999. In October 2000, the magazine tested a new design approach with tweaked copy on the addressing and inside panels. Where the letter would have been, the copywriter took editorial topics and outlined how Scientific American covers these important issues for readers. Illustrations support the copy.
This didn't appear to work well, as the February 2001 mail drop showed the previous style of triple postcard back in circulation. But the October 2000 version did point to a new design approach that could be used in the future, as evidenced by the most recent posterboard mailing received from Scientific American in June 2001 (202SCIAME0601X).
The background of the new posterboard effort comes from the design for a previous sticker token; the triple postcard for this effort follows the same design style as the October 2000 triple postcardbut it features a slimmed-down version of the old letter. What's new: a hologram sticker token that sparkles; a large headline on the addressing panel that promotes the free-issue offer; clustered magazine covers on the inside panel that give the letter breathing room, while also showing off the product; a new layout and type treatment for the premium promotion copy and for the order card. What's old: The same copy for the letter, order card and back panel of the posterboard, with a few small revisions.
Combining the best approaches from the old control triple postcard and the October 2000 version, Scientific American essentially creates a new posterboard mailing, but with tested elements that should add up to better results.