CIT Group’s Curt Ritter on Direct Mail for Branding Campaigns
When developing a direct mail campaign, the age-old challenge is creating a piece your target audience will open immediately. CIT Group Inc., a New York-based provider of commercial and consumer financial products, achieved a 100 percent open rate last January with a hand-delivered, space-age, secret agent-like direct mail package targeted to members of the media. Designed to publicize the launch of a new branding campaign for CIT, the mailing included a coded message, press release, survey campaign ad and decoder glasses. The branding message “see how CIT is redefining capital” was only visible when the recipients put on the decoder glasses. Soon after the deliveries, the company saw a significant increase in hits to a special landing page on its site, which was the call to action.
Why did the campaign work? The hand-delivered, “for your eyes only” envelope created a sense of urgency, while the 3-D glasses capitalized on recipients’ sense of nostalgia. The pieces were reminiscent of the 3-D movies “we all grew up with”, says Curt Ritter, CIT’s director of external communications and media relations. “We wanted to reach members of the media who don’t write about advertising, so we created a unique mail piece to grab their attention,” Ritter says. Here, he details how CIT planned and executed the mailing.
Target Marketing: What was your strategy when creating the mail piece to launch CIT’s new branding campaign?
Curt Ritter: The campaign strategy was to increase awareness among the media about CIT for our new global brand campaign. The challenge for financial services firms is to differentiate themselves among companies in the marketplace. Often, reporters are inundated with e-mails and direct mail pieces. We wanted to come up with a campaign that would break through the clutter in the newsroom. When working with Conshohocken, Pa.-based 20nine Design Studios, we thought this mailer would effectively create a sense of urgency to open the mailing itself.
The response from reporters continues to be very positive. People who received the mailing said they thought it was very creative. We directed reporters to http://capital-redefined.cit.com. [Through the mailing,] we secured interviews/placements in The New York Times, US Banker and various trade publications. When we surveyed members of the press six months later, a significant number indicated their awareness of the new brand campaign. The direct response campaign was a key driver in breaking through the usual direct mail clutter in newsrooms.
TM: How did the mailer’s message, “capital redefined?” work for your re-branding campaign?
CR: It encompasses the combination of the relationship capital plus financial plus intellectual capital. We wanted to [use the media as a vehicle to let potential clients know] we see behind the numbers and we see behind the balance sheet. One of our goals in the past year was to highlight the intellectual capital of our executives; this mailer helped highlight our campaign and [illustrate] that our executives are industry experts and subject matter experts within the marketplace.
TM: Why did you choose to use a space age-like envelope?
CR: We thought a mailer that would create that sense of urgency to open it would help drive the point across that we are redefining how we are looking at things at CIT. Sometimes with direct mail pieces, people don’t get to sift through it all; this was a simple mailer with a simple message. While innovative, it was simple for people to get through the one-page press release because time is of the essence. We also wanted to grab attention with the decoder glasses, [which symbolized the new CIT outlook]. Some reporters from Reuters told us they were wearing the glasses and passing the media kit through the newsroom during our follow-up call. Other recipients have said, “It was a great piece: dramatic, to the point and fun,” according to one reporter from Leasing News. The packaging was different, the content was different. Instinctively people knew to put on the glasses and read the message.
TM: What challenges did you face when creating the campaign and how did you overcome those challenges?
CR: The challenge was that organizations have new brand campaigns every other day and every other week. So it is a challenge to get reporters outside of the advertising beat to pay attention. We were trying to get reporters that follow the financial industry to take a look. The importance was to develop a campaign that would draw their attention, get them to read about capital redefined and report on how CIT is differentiating themselves in the market.
TM: What tips do you have for companies working to launch a new branding campaign using direct mail?
CR: You need to be creative, be innovative and think outside the box. The key is differentiating yourself among the hundreds and thousands of direct mail pieces sent on a regular basis by sending something that will grab attention, something that will pique interest [and] something that has a specific a call to action.