Brian Kurtz on DM Testing in Hard Times
EB: If you want to test a new package with a new copywriter, do you have him or her start from scratch?
BK: Yes. Having a new writer writing against the control is your best chance of getting a winner, as opposed to just tweaking the existing package. This is something that we’ve seen over the past 20 to 25 years: The best way to unseat a control is to go to a brand-new copywriter and have them start from scratch. Ninety percent of the time we’ve had a big lift, up to 30, 40 and 50 percent, is because we did a brand-new package by a new copywriter.
EB: How intricately involved should the designer be in a new test?
BK: Very involved. Designers are very underappreciated and undervalued in this context. We are in an era of magazine people using voucher packages and well-known brands using very straightforward #10 packages with very few inserts and four-page letters. But once you get into more extravagant packages, whether it’s magalogs or bookalogs or a multicomponent package, I think that the design must really link up with the copy.
I’m not saying you have to hire the team at the time, but the best copywriters in the country also know the best designers. Getting them to work together is critical, especially in the kind of stuff that we do. Magalogs, tabloids … 16- to 20-page highly designed packages. You could have the best copy in the world, but if you don’t have the right designer, you’ve got a loser. The designer can make or break the package.
We’ve even taken existing controls, given them to a top-notch designer and had that designer redesign the whole package from scratch—but keeping the content the same—and had some good results.