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Testing political fund-raising efforts is tricky business. Not only must you consider seasonality; the political tenor of the time plays a role in the success or failure of a given mailing. So there's a bit of extra guesswork involved in determining the relative effectiveness of a mail piece.
This effort (608RENACO0603) from the Republican National Committee (RNC) is new to the Archive, and employs a format not seen in political mail in quite some time.
With a return address that reads "Republican National Digest," this 10" x 14" fold-over self-mailer with perf-off BRE is done up like a newsletter. Starting with a letter-style message on the below-the-fold portion of the front panel and continuing with "newsy" items inside, the mailing gives recipients plenty to read. It boasts impressive use of personalization for a grassroots feel, incorporating name and town information"2003 Carefree [Arizona] Area Republican Party Annual Fund Drive"in a rather sophisticated way.
"We like it because it is a different looking message in the mailbox," says Janice Knopp, director of marketing at the RNC. "I call it our retro package," she continues, adding "it's been ages" since the RNC has tried a mailing like this.
So how'd the test work out?
"It hasn't performed very well at all," admits Knopp. Tired of sending out the same #9 and #10 packages, the RNC was searching for a different look. "Self-mailers typically don't work well in fund raising," says Knopp. But she felt the change-up was worth a try. Nonetheless, she says, "it has not been a hit."
Hal Malchow, political direct mail specialist with agency Malchow, Schlackman & Hoppey, isn't surprised.
"I have not seen a package such as this since 1992," says Malchow. "I remember in the '70s seeing Council for a Livable World doing very dramatic, almost tabloid packagesbooklet packages. Very impressive. I have no idea what the returns on that were. ... The past returns on this [format] were so bad, at least when I tried it, that I haven't even thought about it in a long time."
"The dominant truism of fund-raising mail," continues Malchow, "is you can't get away from the letter."
So despite the self-mailer incorporating a letter panel and excellent personalization, this piece has been something of a disappointment as a test.
So back to the drawing board, yes? Not necessarily.
"We mailed it in mid-June," says Knopp. "Mid-June is not the best prospecting time."
"We're thinking about retesting it at a better timemaybe the fourth quarter in front of the presidential election," suggests Knopp. "All four quarters next year should be good. Our market heats up the closer we get to a national election.
"People might have read it but not gotten that the purpose was fund raising," figures Knopp.
With a national election looming, the RNC's intentions might seem a little more obvious.