Control of the Month: Tauck Creates Experiences
Every month for the past 11 years, it's been part of my job as Who's Mailing What! Archivist to analyze pretty much every piece of mail that lands on my desk. More than anything else, I am always on the lookout for long-term controls — those mailings that keep reappearing because they haven't been beaten yet.
Nearly 1,100 have lasted for three years or more, and they are designated as "Grand Controls." But only four travel industry mailings have made it to this level, including the latest offer from Tauck, a family-owned and operated travel company (Archive code #501-177858-0911). It's been in the mail since at least February 2005.
Like its previous Grand Control (Archive code #501-177578-0601), as well as those from two other companies, this Tauck effort is a lead generator. There are no new ships, or specific trips, or even special prices to promote. Instead of generating that type of excitement, it's all about giving the prospective traveler an intriguing reason to open the envelope and then stay interested enough to request brochures.
Running across the middle front and back of the 6" x 9" outer envelope is a band of postage stamp-sized color photographs, each one of Tauck's "Top Travel Destinations": the Colosseum in Rome, Ayers Rock in Australia and Macchu Picchu in Peru, among others. On a slate blue background, the front teaser promises "Top Reasons Why People Who Love To Travel, Love Tauck" (see thumbnails below). On the back, a premium is teased: "FREE 2010 Travel Calendar."
Inside, the two-page letter's Johnson Box butters up the readers with some flattery: "You deserve memorable vacations." The opening then kicks the anticipation up another notch. It asks, "Do you want extraordinary vacations?" Next, it spells it out, in somewhat general terms, the "Tauck differential ... the way you experience the places you visit." Besides the visits and special events made possible by Tauck's small, intimate groups, the knowledge and passion of the company's tour directors is highlighted. And, perhaps more importantly, the director's skills in ensuring the satisfaction of the traveler is championed. The director is "a problem-solver ... a friend ... the true personification of the word ‘leader.'"
Hyperbole? Maybe. But the letter writer's emphasis on customer service extends to pricing: "You're free from worrying about extra costs... you have peace of mind knowing in advance the cost of your vacation." And unlike other tours that crimp independence, this operator's are promised to be "a well-chereographed blend of sightseeing and time at leisure."
The letter's closing all but promises a "perfect vacation," based on the company's 85 years of experience, as well as its commitment to " family values" and to "exceed your expectations." But in case that's not enough to generate a positive response (by mail, phone or website), there's a four-page, 11" x 17" brochure included. This is where the copy from the front of the envelope comes in. The inside spread lists the company's 10 most popular cruises and trips, with a photo and description of each.
And those reasons why people love Tauck? There are ten of them listed on one of the outside panels, each reinforcing or briefly expanding on a point made in the letter. To further lift response, a tri-fold insert is also included in the package, chock-full of testimonials and pictures from travelers with stories about their "good times."
Although the premium gets a few mentions, this mailing succeeds because it creates the impression of a tour operator that is different from its competitors, one that is focused on delivering a positive, distinctive and personalized experience for its guests. That's something you can't put on a calendar.
Paul Bobnak is the director of the Who's Mailing What! Archive, the extensive online direct mail library that lets you see the packages other companies have mailed, so you can learn from their tests and controls.