When you think of the National Geographic Society, you may envision the iconic yellow-bordered magazine that you sneaked peeks at as a kid in hopes of catching a glimpse of naked tribespeople. But while the photo-packed magazine is a big part of what the nonprofit organization does, there's so much more to it than that.
The National Geographic Society is a Washington, D.C.-based membership organization that offers not one, but five magazines, as well as books, DVDs, TV programs, educational courses, webcasts, museum exhibitions, concerts, lectures, film screenings and even the National Geographic Bee, a geographic version of the old-fashioned spelling bee. While its vision statement is "inspiring people to care about the planet," Bill McBee, senior copywriter in the marketing services division, says that another motto motivates much of what the Society does: "The world and all that's in it," which was inspired by inventor and former National Geographic President Alexander Graham Bell.
Just as the Society's offerings are an amalgamation of complementary products that help people explore "the world and all that's in it," its direct mail campaigns arise from the efforts of experts in many different divisions. You usually think of direct mail as the product of, say, a writer and a graphic designer, but at the Society, everyone is involved-from the map division to the research library (yes, you read that last word correctly; more to come later on how this division fits into the direct marketing picture). These divisions all contribute to creating direct mail campaigns for travel tours, membership and magazine subscriptions, and catalog items like atlases and DVDs, while staying true to the well-known National Geographic brand.
Old Brand, New Ways
National Geographic is a huge brand. Is there anyone who doesn't recognize instantly the yellow-border logo, or who hasn't seen its lushly photographed magazines or its science programs on TV? The acclaimed brand carries over naturally into every aspect of its direct mail campaigns. "The brand is so well-incorporated and internalized and organic here that we don't think too terribly much about it," says Karen Rice Gardiner, director of creative services in the marketing services division. "It's not something we apply at the end of our project-it's something that's there from the beginning."