Is it Time for the Next Big Trend?
At a DMA fund-raising day in New York City, a marketer from Boys Town said that for years his organization refused to use the little personalized return labels because, "Everybody was using them and we did not want to look like everybody else." Then one day he went into the mail room and grabbed 10 pounds of Business Reply Mail "just to see what we were getting." It turns out, a large number of the BREs had return labels from other charities in the upper left corner. "Obviously our people responded to return label mailings," he said. "We tested one and it is now the control."
Return address labels lay a guilt trip on potential donors. Seldom are they used outside the fund-raising world. But Time magazine is testing two subscription efforts that not only have personalized address labels, but another fund-raising technique--the survey or questionnaire.
The red, blue and gray envelopes have a Publishers Clearinghouse look about them, complete with an eagle next to the indicia. The promise on the smaller 6" x 11" version (201TIMEMA0202B): "You can receive a FREE Panoramic Camera and Photo Album Set and more!" On the 8" x 11 1/2" version (201TIMEMA1101A), the offer is for a "FREE UltronicTM RoadMate and more!" Both scream "AMERICA 2002 SURVEY" and promise a "personalized gift" inside (the labels.) Everywhere you look--from the outer to the letter, the order form to the address labels--is personalization. The entire package is something that might come out of Moore Response Marketing Services in Illinois--a series of loud forms that look like neither letters nor circulars nor traditional reply cards. The letter starts:
Dear Sample A. Sample
Because we value your opinion and personal insights, you have been selected to participate in the AMERICA 2002 SURVEY.
The year has proven to be a challenging one [blah, blah, blah].
It is as though the writer wanted to avoid talking about the benefits of Time for as long as possible.
The order device doubles as the "OFFICIAL QUESTIONNAIRE." It starts by asking general questions of age, gender and primary source for news. Then on to Social Security, teachers' pay, the influence of the Internet and handguns.
For years, the survey effort used by political fund-raisers--particularly the Republicans--flattered prospects into thinking that their opinions counted. Then one day a Washington Post reporter found a dumpster full of questionnaires out back and discovered nobody in the organization looked at the responses; the surveys were just an involvement technique. The faces of those Republicans were as red as the headlines in these Time mailings.
Another interesting corollary on Time's choice to test a survey package is that it's been operating in a world of bland, price-driven professional discount efforts. So has its prime competitor, Newsweek. However, U.S. News & World Report has been successful with a long-term control that features a survey and several greed premiums.
The Time mailings also offer terrific premiums--a neat little camera in one and an electronic road map gadget in the other. Make no mistake about it, premiums work.
Considering that Time was one of the first--if not the leading--publisher to phase into the professional discount-style package, we'll be watching to see if these tests signal the beginning of the end for the professional discount trend.
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