Taking BAM! and Kicking It Up a Notch
Standing out in the mail is no easy feat. While there are plenty of bells and whistles to employ that push the direct mail envelope, so to speak, Harvard Women's Health Watch has found that going grand takes the cake.
Its recently crowned control mailing, sent in a 9" x 12" white outer bearing the Harvard seal and abundant copy, stood out as one of the larger mail pieces the Who's Mailing What! Archive received in June (250HAWOHW0604X).
The mailing, first tested in June 2003, is sent to female list selects and expired subscribers offering a free issue of the newsletter as well as free health reports.
According to Donna DeWitt, vice president of circulation marketing for Consumer Health Publishing Group, which works with Harvard Health Publications to produce five Harvard Medical School newsletters including Harvard Women's Health Watch, this large format always has fared better in direct mail efforts.
"We have had tremendous success with these 9" x 12" jumbo packages, and over the years it's been very rare that a smaller package has beaten a 9" x 12", so this size is pretty standard for us," says DeWitt.
The mailing was devised through the course of normal package testing to combat a decline in response for the publication. Keeping with the 9" x 12" outer it had been using as the control, Consumer Health Publishing Group switched the copy approach on the envelope from subtle to copious.
The front of the new outer identifies prospects with a large headline that reads, "AS A WOMAN ..." and is rife with teasers like, "Should you take hormones or not?" and "How much calcium is too much?," while the back features four news tidbits to lure prospects inside.
According to DeWitt, freelance copywriter Ken Scheck devised this approach in which the reader is teased by a multitude of hanging questions as a way of both illustrating the wealth of pertinent information Harvard Women's Health Watch disseminates and leading them inside to learn more.
"One of the things that we know is that there's so much health information out there, but it's often conflicting," adds DeWitt. "So, of course, with a newsletter from Harvard Medical School, our selling point is that we're going to give you credible, authoritative information that you can count on."
The mailing seems to have struck the right balance with prospects, pulling in a 20-percent lift over the existing control on the front end and a 30-percent lift on the back end. It has been the new control since December 2003.
As an interesting sidenote, some of the questions posed on the envelope, the letter and various inserts are left unanswered, which, according to DeWitt, proved an unbearable cliffhanger for one recipient, who wrote to the publication in search of the answer, suspicious of whether she'd been duped by a marketing tease. DeWitt says the key to using teasers is to give prospects enough detail, but not too much. However, as the story above indicates, finding a happy medium can be like walking a tightrope.
"You have to give them the satisfaction," adds DeWitt, "but I think it's always a good idea to leave some of these things dangling, in the hope that they'll be interested enough to get more information from us by sending for the free issue."
Whether the success of this mailing is due to the amount/type of copy on the outer, and if its reign will last, only time can tell. But DeWitt seems sold, at least, on this format size.
"It's much more expensive to use this size package," says DeWitt, "but the increased response more than pays for the cost of the additional postage and the larger envelope."