Did You Get That Memo?
The 6" x 9" outer envelope format seems to be quite popular with the folks at The Atlantic Monthly. Since the late 1990s, the award-winning literary publication has been dropping a myriad of 6" x 9" acquisition efforts, all with varying copy, creative and offer approaches.
Arguably the most notable was its one-time control mailing, which featured the compelling carrier-envelope teaser copy: "The Future of the Past. What Men Don't Tell Women. How to Start Your Own Country. Where to Drop the Other Shoe. ... Plus a Free Gift! (see inside)" And, another, new to the Who's Mailing What! Archive late last summer, with the teaser: "There's always been a place for good writing. And you'll find it when you open this envelope." Both packages offered prospects a preview issue and a discounted one- or two-year subscription.
More recently, The Atlantic Monthly adopted a radical approach to the 6" x 9" appealby turning it on its ear. In November, it mailed a vertical format with memo-style copy running down the entire length of the envelope,
detailing its "awards" and "big circulation growth spurt" (202ATLMON1103). Presented as an internal memo from the chief marketing officer to the publisher, The Atlantic Monthly's aim here is to convey its widely acclaimed,
redesigned and "re-energized" editorial product. While under new ownership, the publication has undergone a proverbial facelift, and with its recent direct mail offering, potential readers are briefedcorporate-styleabout the "exciting" changes.
"This is a unique way of leveraging a unique opportunity [for prospective subscribers]," says Bill Baird, a direct mail consultant who specializes in the publishing sector. "With a 6" x 9", you have a lot of space to present your message." But The Atlantic Monthly's approach could be even more effective, Baird says, if there was an element of curiosity and involvement on the outer envelope. "This piece functions as a billboard, not a curiosity device. You always want the carrier to tease, and seize recipients' attention."
The piece does grab your eye, if only due to its unorthodox nature. While the last line of outer envelope copy subtly teases a free preview issue and two free gifts, the focus is placed on the memorandum-presentation of product benefits. Inside, on the order card, the memo continues: "Memorandum of Exclusive Benefits: Reply today and discover the exciting, provocative, fascinating, enlighteningoften prescient'magazine of the moment.'"
Commenting on whether or not this format will endure in the mail, Baird says, "If the effort is working for [The Atlantic Monthly], it could be considered a very creative device that has a very short tail. As soon as you lose that compelling message, or it becomes dated, it would become difficult to make this [technique] work. We won't see this used over and over."
It's safe to say that once the public familiarizes themselves with the reborn publication, this mailing will lose its bite. But there's no telling when this format will resurface.