To achieve success in direct mail, you don't need an eye-catching image or teaser on your outer. Sometimes a cartoon will do just fine. That's just one of the takeaways from JoAnn Kalenak, acquisition marketer at High Country News. Two versions of the magazine's acquisition package have been received by Who's Mailing What! for more than 3 years, qualifying them as "Grand Controls."
The #10 envelope's line drawing, by cartoonist David Catrow, shows stunned animals sitting together on a stump against a treeless landscape, with a rabbit crying, "So much for homeland security." "It speaks directly to our core market with a humorous but serious environmental and political message," Kalenak explains. This combination has been tested against other outers since being 2004, and, she adds, "continues to resonate despite the fact that it's 'old news.'"
After leading off with testimonials in the Johnson Box (the top part of the letter, just above the salutation), and noting HCN's influential role in western state affairs, the letter delves into the magazine's back story, and how it was saved from closing by its readers. "The subscribers would have none of it," it boasts.
Kalenak breaks down the audience's profile: "We have found that our demographic are highly educated people (40 percent have post-graduate degrees) with a huge sense of humor and strong ties to the West ... its stories, problems, history and, most importantly, its future." The letter has also been tested again and again over 15 years, and still comes out on top.
According to Kalenak, the use of testimonials is part of a social proofing strategy. "[Our readers] want to protect what they see as endangered, and they want to know that they are in a community of other folks that 'stand with them.'" Along the same lines, the lift note helps the prospect engage with the mailing, asking "WHY YOU?" in white serif type reversed out on red on the front.