Direct Mail Trends of 2001
Size vs. Cost
It's a battle between budget and projected response. Companies that don't feel they can pull in a large enough response to cover the cost of a more expensive direct mail package have been cutting, cutting, cutting. They've been reducing the size of their formats, the number of components within an envelope and the number of new packages they test.
For example, the publishing industry was hard-hit by sweepstakes legislation, declining response rates and postal rate hikes. In response, many publishers went the inexpensive route with a professional discount offer.
The low expense of an outer envelope, order form, business reply envelope and, perhaps, an insert, results in an affordable acquisition cost, but it's also a cost structure that makes it seem risky to test any other format and expect to make money. But several publishers are testing new ideas in the anticipation of this trend losing steam sometime soon.
At the other end of the spectrum are more extravagant mailings, such as the 9˝x12˝envelope efforts that are in heavy rotation and the cardboard boxes popping up in the fund-raising arena.
While it seems strange that fund-raisers, of all direct marketers, would have the money to spend on box mailings, the strategy pays off in higher response and higher average donation amounts. For example, the Humane Society of the United States is in its third year of sending out holiday cards and a donation request in a 6˝x71⁄2˝ cardboard box with a holiday theme. To raise money for the cause, cover the cost of the mailing and acquire a new donor, the fund-raiser increases the average gift request by 20 percent. Most of all, the unique look of a cardboard box mailing gets more attention than the typical envelope mailing consumers have come to recognize.
Hallie Mummert is editor of Inside Direct Mail, a monthly newsletter covering the trends and successful techniques of U.S. direct mail. She can be reached at (215) 238-5437, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.