Personal, but Not Scary
Nowhere are consumers more guarded about their privacy than when it comes to their children. Thus, finding ways to personalize direct mail efforts for child- or family-related products and services in an effectiveand yet sensitivemanner is a challenge for marketers.
We've received two mailings from Sears Portrait Studio in the past four months that are models of how to target customers with appropriate offers and messaging, while still putting your customers' concerns first.
Both mailings are 4-1/4" x 6" double postcard formats, but without the perf at the fold (357SEAROE1202; 357SEAROE0303). Instead, these self-mailers open to a landscape-style spread, which is where the variable messaging comes into play. To take the copy beyond the generic "birthdays are special" standard, Sears Portrait Studio invites customers to "celebrate [insert child's name and age] birthday with portraits." Beyond his own name, nothing gets a person's attention faster than seeing one of his or her children's names in print.
Since this effort is targeted toward the parentsI've yet to see a 5-year-old ask to be dressed up in his or her itchy, confining Sunday best to sit for a photo sessionSears uses personalization to address the audience, as in "Dear Smith Family." Other variable imaging includes the offer copya short message about how to celebrate the child's birthday with photo products, and a final reminder of Sears Portrait Studios SmileSaver Plan (which is a two-year-term loyalty club that offers free sitting/session fees while a member, in addition to special deals, affinity offers and more).
In fact, the SmileSaver Plan is an integral component of these personalized mailings. Customization is only as good as the data that fuels it, and the information gathered from membership applications to the SmileSaver Plan provides Sears Portrait Studio with very reliable details. Wisely, the marketer does not tip the scales by printing the child's birth dateand it's really not necessary to get the message across. Nor does it use any personally identifiable information on the outside of the mailing, which provides no clues to the presence of personalization inside.
Each of the self-mailers fills up the rest of the interior spread in its own way. One devotes the majority of the spread to two coupons with graphic representations of how many photos the deals cover; the other cuts the size of the coupons nearly in half to allow room to display several portrait stylesone of which might entice the customer to imagine his or her child in that setting. Coupons are bar coded for tracking back to the direct marketing effort.
A side note: The company responsible for the SmileSaver Plan and creating these direct mail pieces is not really Sears, although the retail giant does sign off on marketing efforts for its Sears Portrait Studios. The wizard behind the curtain is a firm called CPI Corp., to which Sears licenses its name for the Portrait Studio. CPI operates studios in all major Sears stores, as well as in many non-Sears shopping malls.