Premium Watch: Join the Club
Content may be king in some mail sectors, but when clubs set out to entice new members, it's the offer and the premiumand sometimes premiumsthat rule the direct mail roost.
Case in point: According to the Who's Mailing What! Archive, clubs are one of the most prolific premium mailers, second only to newsletter publishers. In 2004, 53.8 percent of all club mailings featured premiums, well above the overall mail stream average of 16.9 percent. And, if mailing patterns over the last few years are any indication, that number could be on its way up. In the first quarter of 2005, 54.4 percent of club mailings featured premiums; in 2004, 2003 and 2002, premium use climbed steadily throughout the second and third quarters, ending the year a few percentage points ahead of first quarter results. If 2005 continues this trend, club mailers' premium use could hit an all-time high this year.
A look at some recent club mailings reveals why these numbers are no surprise: Premiums are an integral part of a clubparticularly a book clubmailer's offer. Conservative Book Club (Archive code #125-411262-0503), for example, begins to sell its premiuma copy of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American Historybefore it even mentions that it's a book club, dedicating the entire front of its outer envelope to the premium with an image of the book and the teaser, "102 myths debunked... America's true history revealed in this bestselling bookyours FREE!" The free book also is highlighted on a full-color insert and the BRC.
Reader's Digest Young Families is another mailer that emphasizes its premiums. A recent mailing for its Sesame Street club (Archive code #592-698482-0504) includes only a one-page voucher, six-panel insert and BRE tucked inside a plain, white #10 envelope. The voucher and the insert are dedicated to the premium packagethe "A" and "B" issues of the alphabet book set (subsequent books are the focus of the continuity program), a play mat, two flash card sets and a parenting newslettereach listing the premiums first and the required purchase (the "C" book of the series for $4.99) last. Details of the club program are found only on the back of the voucher.
Other mailers, however, seek to strike a little more balance between the premium and their offerings. An April mailing from Decorative Artist's Book Club, for example, is a little more up front about its club status, but no less fervent about its premiums (Archive code #125-699899-0504). The front and back of the glossy, 6" x 9" envelope heavily promote the free giftsusing the word "FREE," in all caps, nine timesbut clearly qualifies that those premiums are part of a "no obligation membership in the only book club exclusively for decorative artists." That same theme continues in the letter, brochure and BRE, where proclamations of "FREE" gifts are tempered with a strong sell of the club itself.
The front cover of a recent effort from The Literary Guild (Archive code #125-171693-0503A) does not mention its free gift, focusing instead on its six books for $1 offer. But the AM/FM Curve radio premium still gets plenty of play; an image of the radio is shown on 10 pages of the 40-page catalog, and another five pages tease, "Get a FREE gift with membership." Doubleday Book Club (Archive code #125-174232-0503B) employs a similar technique, focusing the cover of its 24-page catalog on its "up to 6 books for 99 cents" offer and urging, "ACT NOW and select a FREE Gift!" Inside, seven of the 11 spreads show an image of the premiumthe new member's choice of a beige tote bag or an additional bookand another two spreads simply mention the "free gift."
To wit, this concept of choice is popular among club mailers; in 2004, 58.3 percent of premium offers in this sector allowed members to choose between two gifts. Some other premiums that have popped up in this sector recentlyeither on their own or as a gift optioninclude: