Keeping Your Magalog Fresh
The burden of any winning magalog is that the very element that led to its success—its ability to stand out in the mailbox—will eventually lead to its failure—the inevitable fatigue that comes with being so recognizable. Because of this dichotomy, magalogs, perhaps more than any other direct mail format, require vigilant testing to thrive in the mailstream.
And vigilance in this sense does not just require regular testing, but outside-the-box testing as well. From its eye-catching cover and carefully designed interior to its long-form copy and compelling offer, a magalog has so many facets to test that if you are relying simply on the requisite cover update to keep your magalog fresh, you could be selling it—and your response rates—short.
Not sure where to begin? Which elements to tackle first? Here's a look at different tests and tweaks other ardent magalog mailers are doing, have done and would love to do to keep their controls in peak condition.
Offer. The old 40-40-20 maxim states that 40 percent of the success of your campaign relies on your offer, so it is vital to test to make sure it's the strongest one you can extend while still preserving your ROI. Some offer components to test include the length of a free trial, number of installation payments, price points and the use of a guarantee,like the merchandise return label Reader's Digest and Prevention feature on the inside back cover of their magalogs. Premiums also are good to test, says Lori Haller, freelance designer and proprietor of Shadow Oak Studio, to see "whether you need to give more to get more."
Cover. Just like outer envelope tests, cover updates are a simple and important tool for keeping a magalog fresh. Heidi Hoyt Wells, a creative consultant who has worked with such clients as Rodale, Oxmoor House and AOL, points to one health book client that has three covers that alternate while the inside of the effort stays the same. "We tested into them so that we are able to head off fatigue," explains Wells. Ideas for changing up the cover include using a new headline or taking the same copy and giving the piece a new look. Ellen Balfour, art director for Potomac, Md.-based Healthy Directions, a publisher of health news-letters and provider of health supplements, suggests pulling out a section from the magalog that is timely or in the news in order to give the effort an up-to-date feel. This contemporary strategy has worked well for The Economist over the years, for both its envelope and magalog packages. For example, in a six-month period in 2005, the magazine mailed its magalog control with such in-the-news headlines as, "The disappearing dollar," "Addicted to oil" and "Oil. How to avoid the next shock."