Short for Sweeter Response
Humanitarian organization CARE never has been one to beat around the bush when it comes to telling the world its message. And in January, this nonprofit sent out a direct mail effort that's a clear-cut example of its forthright attitude (Archive code #605-171594-0501).
On a double-window, 4" x 8" gold envelopewith a tactile quality like the paper packages you might imagine food deliveries arriving in via mailthe messages "URGENT NOTICE!" and "Please Open Immediately!" beseech in red ink.
Inside the sparse outer is a pink BRE and two 7" x 73/8" sheets of paper, both perforated across the center, with a very straightforward message: CARE needs your money. And it needs it now. Why? Because:
You were an important part of the fight against poverty and hunger around the world, and made a difference in millions of lives.
Of these two sheets, one is an original, while the other is a duplicate that serves as a customer receipt. Only the top half functions as the appeal; in addition to the ask paragraph, it also serves as the address and return address. The lower half is the response device, sporting a modest ask ladder of $15 to $25.
The identical copy of the ask/reply combo sheet is made to emulate a carbon copy. It does a good job of mimicking the real thing, with thin paper stock, gray text and a grainy, yellowish background. Nearly everything is identical to the original form. Prospects are told to return the entire white form and keep the yellow copy for their records. "It's meant as a receipt, yes, but it's clearly not meant to serve as a tax receipt," says Brian Cowart, director of direct mail at CARE. The donor can fill in his information after giving, and keep the copy for his records. CARE, of course, will send out an official tax receipt at year's end.
According to Cowart, because this package was tested to lower-level donorsthose who have contributed less than $100a simple, acquisition-style format seemed like the way to go. The single paragraph first reminds, then gently prods, "Can we count on your support again this year as we reach out to families and communities that are struggling to survive?" CARE has "found that shorter copy resonates better with the lower-level donor," states Cowart.
Since this package was mailed to donors already familiar with the cause, the simple appeal can be construed as a hastily mailed effort. Adding to this effect is the perforated, hole-punched edge, reminiscent of the days when printer-paper had to be reeled through the printer via spokes. The perfs give the illusion that the mailing was torn directly from the machine. That is to say, tsunami survivors are in need, and CARE is out on the field helping, not indoors writing direct mail packages.
And while that last statement is true, the package was not hastily put together. It's a well-thought-out design from The Domain Group, CARE's agency of record. This package was pitted against the control to low-level donorsa more verbose, four-page letter with a separate reply device.
The shortened package "beat the control pretty substantially," says Cowart. It's done so well, CARE began testing it to higher-level donors in January. "Many times we believe in-depth, longer messages appeal to higher-level donors," he says, but, to echo a favored sentiment among the direct mail community, everything is worth testing.
Cowart says the package is a success thanks to a combination of factors: "It's the different outer, the different look with carbon, the acquisition-style approach with short copy ... all of it."