Credit Card Mailers Try to Break the Cycle (627 words)
By Hallie Mummert
A recent report on credit card marketing from Mail Monitor, a tracking service offered by Tarrytown, NY, research firm BAIGlobal, shows that card marketers sent 992 million direct mail acquisition packages in the second quarter of 2000. In turn, response to these offers dropped to an all-time low of 0.4 percent—which will simply spur these companies to mail even more offers to keep acquiring customers.
The reason for this downward spiral in response is a no-brainer: Credit card offers are practically homogenous in appearance, the offers are similar, and the more mail in consumers' mailboxes—regardless of what type— the less response for everyone.
Some card marketers who see the writing on the wall have begun to break out of their stiff, corporate identities to test new creative approaches. In the past few months, we've spotted credit card packages that prove card marketers are taking their cues from the successful techniques of publishers and fund-raisers—a smart bunch from which to learn.
Overall, the message is "go big." Any format larger than a 4˝ x 8˝ envelope package could be considered atypical for credit card efforts, but we came up with five envelope mailings that range from 6˝ x 11˝ to 9˝ x 12˝.
To create a stir for its new upper-crust Quantum card product, MBNA America shifts to a 6˝ x 11˝ envelope package with special embossing for the product name on the outer envelope and letterhead. The contents are an application labeled "personal request form," BRE, a two-page letter and one-page sheet of benefits that are encased by a folded sheet of translucent paper. The look is upscale and exclusive, compared to its cookie-cutter affinity card mailings.
Bank One opts for a 9˝ x 12˝ envelope with the border of green triangles seen on first-class, financial mail to get past the proverbial "whitefang," the administrative assistant, mail room clerk or secretary. Even though copy pertaining to the credit line being offered is visible through a second window on the outer envelope, the amount is large enough—$35,000—to convince whitefang that this offer is too important not to show it to the boss. Note: Since Bank One has mailed this offer for almost a year, it's likely to be pulling its weight.
Citibank often has been more adventurous with its direct mail creative approaches for its A*Advantage® card offering. From extensive personalization to response stickers to glassine back panels and four-color printing on outer envelopes … this card marketer has been actively testing both new design and offers to improve response. The latest effort is 8˝ x 11˝ with four response stickers on the front of the envelope and personalization throughout.
Boldly daring to be different, Capital One tries on for size a few techniques from the publishing and fund-raising industries. Back in August, the card marketer tested a fake priority mail design for both 8˝ x 11˝ outer envelope and inner elements. In October, Capital One went a different route with a 9˝ x 12˝ envelope format that featured a kraft-like paper outer envelope bearing the copy "Form 4136 Enclosed" and a boxed-out warning against mail tampering that is supposed to sound official. Swimming inside this large carrier are the standard letter/application form, benefits buck slip, billing rights insert and a BRE. While the fake "official" approach may be the next target on the Congress/state attorneys general direct mail hit list, it's an interesting concept to send out in late October, when the IRS mails its audit notices.
Hallie Mummert is editor of Inside Direct Mail. She can be reached at (215) 238-5437 or by e-mail at email@example.com. You can order copies of these and other credit card mailings by calling Paul Bobnak, Direct Mail Archive director, at (215) 238-5225.