News They Can Count On
At first blush, this summertime mailing sent out by the Strat-O-Matic Game Co., of Glen Head, N.Y., doesn't appear to be overly elaborate. Barely flaunting the company name or the goods inside, it would be fair to say it leans on the side of minimalism.
The package includes a basic, #10 white envelope filled with a few usual components: an 8-1/2" x 11" letter listing available game sets; four order forms detailing football, hockey and basketball game products; and a four-color promotional brochure promoting computer versions of football and hockey Strat-O-Matic games. But behind this assortment of enclosures is a piece that is considerably unusual: a four-page, 8-1/2" x 11" newsletter (369STOMAT0604).
Intrigued by the use of customer newsletters in direct mail, the Inside Direct Mail editors wanted to find how often Strat-O-Matic sends the newsletter and just how effective it is. As it turns out, it is a regular addition to the three major mailings sent every year, and it serves as an effective tool for the announcement of gaming updates, statistical data and company news.
According to Steve Barkan, research and development director at Strat-O-Matic, one mailing is sent out in October for the holidays, another in late December to introduce new cards coming out in January, and a third goes out around May and June.
"Including the newsletter is a good strategy for a couple reasons," says Barkan. "We save money on correspondence from not having to mail them out separately, and we save time fielding unnecessary phone calls since the newsletter covers more in-depth information that people might have wound up calling us about ... it more than pays for its spot in the mailing."
Inside this spring/summer edition are various articles reporting on topics such as the company's hiring of a new computer programming expert, how to keep online games up-to-date and the expansion of its online games on the Sporting News Web site.
Barkan says the newsletter is never sent out as a solo piece, nor is it used as a promotional vehicle. All text, he says, is strictly for informational purposes, since other inserts in the mailing promote products. In fact, the only solo mailings the company sends are promotional brochures, which are sent upon request. As far as whether or not the newsletter influences additional sales, Barkan couldn't say for sure, but predicted it is a probable booster since it can create dialogue between those already playing the games and friends and family not yet signed on.
Founded in 1961, Strat-O-Matic is a game that breaks sportssuch as baseball, hockey, football and basketballinto percentages using data from a given season that allows owners to play simulated games. Knowing this, one might suspect that the target audience for these mailers predominantly consists of men.
That assumption would be correct. Barkan reports a demographic of mostly males ranging in age from 10 to 60 years old. "We have grandfathers playing with grandsons and uncles playing with nephews," says Barkan. "Sure we get the occasional female sports fan, but we almost never get husbands and wives playing together."
This may explain the no-frill packaging. For an audience that Barkan says is looking for stats, scores and other sports-related data, fancy overtones would almost get in the way. And the addition of a straightforward, informative newsletter seems to be something to look forward to, for those engrossed in the game.
Sharon Cole is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer serving the print industry.