If You Ask Me: Have Fun With Freemiums
I love using freemiums in direct mail. I can't tell you quantitatively how effective they are in lifting response. I can't tell you if freemiums work better than premiums. All I know is, I like writing about them and using them to
create excitement in a direct mail package.
Freemiums, as the name implies, are free gifts enclosed in the direct mail package. Many times they're three-dimensional, so you actually can feel them through the envelope. All freemiums, just like premiums, ought to relate in some way to the book, magazine or service being offered.
Book publisher Leisure Arts used a 51/2" crochet hook inside its package for its "Crochet Collection" crafts book. Anyone who crochets has at least one crochet hook, but it's an item you can't have too many of. The crochet hook was identified on both the front and back of the outer envelope. Oxmoor House, however, kept its plastic fabric marker for its "Quick and Easy Scrap Quilts" book package a secret, simply stating on the outer that there was a "FREE SEWING TOOL INSIDE!" Oxmoor House, a publisher of books and continuity programs, knew full well that savvy quilters already have a fabric marker; keeping the freemium a secret on the outerand taking advantage of its bulky feel through the outer envelopecreated a curiosity for prospects that was too tempting to ignore.
Many times the idea for a winning freemium is right in front of your noselike the one I used in a package for American Girl. The basis for the freemium was literally a feature within the magazine called the Mini Magazinea miniaturized layout of the spreads of the magazine printed on a single page front and back. Girls were invited to cut out each spread with scissors, arrange them in the proper order, and then fold and staple them together, creating a mini
version of the magazine. What better way to demonstrate to prospective subscribers what the magazine is all about! We simply reproduced the two 81/2" x 11" pages from the magazine, folded it once to fit within the 6" x 9" package, andta-da!the perfect editorial freemium.
But perhaps the most memorable editorial freemium I've used was years ago for SPY magazine. For those of you too young to remember, SPY was the brainchild of Tom Phillips, Graydon Carter and Kurt Andersen. It was notorious for skewering celebrities, politicians and corporate bigwigs in New York and Los Angeles. At the time, Russia was still the U.S.S.R., and Mikhail Gorbachev was its premier. Because he made a trip to New York, SPY did a story on him. Mr. Gorbachev's most prominent physical feature was a birthmark on his partially bald head that looked like a wine stain on a tablecloth. In true SPY form, the publishers included a "life-size rub-on Mikhail Gorbachev birthmark decal" inside the magazine to accompany the article.
"Now you can look just like Gorby!" it exclaimed. When I was asked to create a new package for SPY, I jumped at the chance to use the fake tattoo as a freemium. It survives to this day (although sadly the magazine doesn't) as a historic icon of the last days of the Cold War era. (It wasn't too long after that when former President Ronald Reagan made his history-changing "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" speech in West Berlin.)
So, copywriters, always keep your eyes and ears peeled for intriguing freemium ideas. And then, when you get the chance to use one, sell the heck out of it. It could just be all you need to put your package over the top and into the winner's circle.
Ken Schneider is an award-winning direct mail writer/designer specializing in magazine, book and newsletter promotions. With more than 35 circulation direct marketing awards, he has been honored more than any other individual or direct mail organization. Ken splits his time between Houston, TX, and Aspen, CO. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.