DM Spotlight: Consumer Reports
In this era of personalized messaging, direct marketing can become a dicey proposition for organizations that target a vast array of consumers. However, Consumer Reports, the consumer products education and empowerment magazine for consumer advocate nonprofit Consumers Union, uses its popular brand as an independent expert on all products to its advantage in reaching its wide-ranging audience.
In one of its newer direct mail acquisition campaigns, Consumer Reports offers 20 lessons for prospective customers on products ranging from automobiles and cereal to TVs, paint and gas, providing something for just about everyone.
"Your typical direct mail marketing piece would be very focused towards a very specific need or niche," says Jamie Darnow, chief marketing officer for the Yonkers, N.Y.-based organization. "But because we are focused on, in this piece, the general consumer space, we're able to show everything from bananas to iPhones. It hits back to the diverse set of products in our portfolio ... In appealing to the general consumer public, a wide reach is needed to tap consumer interest."
To accommodate just about every consumer out there, Consumer Reports mailed its 10-3/4" x 6" package with the teaser, "Learn these lessons at our expense ..." on the outer along with images of a camera, a car and a box of cereal with smaller teasers accompanying them, along with a "FREE" sticker to peel off and place on the reply card inside (Archive code #202-171635-0904).
The package then folds out into a 12" x 10-3/4" magalog, with more colorful teasers and images below the fold and some more "REAL facts" on the back, along with the beginning of the letter. Inside, the mailing walks consumers through the 20 lessons learned on products Consumer Reports has reviewed along with an engaging letter that starts on page 1, then jumps to page 4 and ends on page 10.
Throughout, more helpful, detailed information is dispersed for the readers to browse easily and digest at their leisure, strongly conveying snippets of what the magazine has to offer. "We believe one of the best ways to cultivate the customer base is to actually give them a sample of the product and the information that you're delivering, and that should win them over in itself," explains Darnow. "That's a philosophy we really employ around here."
What allows Consumer Reports to offer a sample of its copy encompassing so much detail on so many products lies in the trust the Consumer Reports brand garners in the marketplace, according to Darnow. Because of the organization's status as an "expert, independent nonprofit," Consumer Reports can let its content do the talking. This piece is more about giving the consumer information, not so much in selling subscriptions.
"We have a nice continuum of products the average consumer uses and relies on. And we put out important information in this promotion about those products," Darnow details. "Because of who we are and the nature of the products we test, we essentially can reach out to people across the whole product continuum and captivate their interest. At the end of the day, we like to think we can provide the consumer with new information they may not know about an existing product."
Though the organization is still evaluating the results, Darnow says it is a piece that he likes, incorporating many control components and test elements. No matter how the results fare, it's safe to say Consumer Reports will continue to rely heavily on its expert, independent and nonprofit mission to inform and empower consumers in all its direct mail campaigns.
The Useful Premium
The use of premiums can be a good or bad thing. It's a good thing if the premium is something people actually want or need. Conversely, it's a bad thing if it is of little or no value. With that in mind, Consumer Reports offers two highly desirable premiums in its "Learn these lessons at our expense ..." mailer: two Consumer Reports-published books-"How to Clean Practically Anything" and "Buying Guide 2009." "The power behind the combination of both of those premiums is that one tells you what we've rated best, and the other one tells you how to care for it and get the longest life," describes Roseanne Ippoliti, director of acquisition marketing and branding for Consumer Reports. "So it's all surrounding a value proposition that the product delivers."