Get the Letter Out?
Mailings without letters are pretty roundly tsk-tsked in these parts.
After all, as Inside Direct Mail grand pooh-bah emeritus Denny Hatch wrote in his book "Million Dollar Mailings": "When mailings are tested with and without a letter, those with no letter almost always lose. Direct mail is a personal medium; letters are personal."
When we received this effort from Time Out New York (206TIOUNY1002X) without any letter to speak of, we figured we'd check to see how this bold move was playing out for the weekly New York City entertainment guide. After all, if we've learned anything at all it's that anything within reason is worth at least a test.
"A letter has been a component in the past, but of late we've rolled away from it in our campaigns," says Matthew Warner, subscriptions manager at Time Out New York (TONY). "We do continue to test letters in different packages and actually our most recent letter test did very well, so it may make a comeback. It's probably a testament to the effectiveness of the other pieces in the package that the letter hasn't been necessary."
The mailing's other elements are indeed strong and come in a bold black-and-red envelope that apes the magazine's logo. Inside is a brochure trumpeting the magazine's benefits ("It's our current control brochure and has been for a while now," says Warner), an order card, a BRE and a yellow buckslip.
The brochure's opening panel depicts a well-used copy of TONY and the text "If your entertainment magazine doesn't look like this when you're done with it ..."
The inside copy continues "... then maybe it's not giving you everything you need." It proceeds to demonstrate what each issue of the magazine provides.
The order card, like the brochure, is handsomely designed.
Also included is a rather spare-looking yellow buckslip boasting "Lowest price anywhere!" In the midst of this slick campaign, the buckslipwith its blocky font and centered copy on lightweight stockfeels like a disconnect from the tone of the rest of the mailing. It's probably intentional. It's not inconceivable that people could get so swept up in how streamlined the package looks, they might actually forget they're looking at an offer.
"It seems like a small thing, but it has actually produced a pretty significant lift in response," says Warner. "It's proven more effective with the absence of a letter."
So in a sense, the buckslip takes the place of the letter, which isn't as blasphemous as it might seem, considering that this package was sent to people who have received mailings from TONY in the past.
"This is a package that we send to those that have seen pieces from us before and haven't responded," says Warner. "Recipients could have received any number of pieces from us before, most likely our control package, which is similar."
Which is to say that people receiving this piece may already have read a letter from TONY. Like David Byrne sang: "Say something once. Why say it again?"