The Case of the Penny Package
See a penny, pick it up ... So goes the familiar saying. It's also part of a successful direct mail package strategy for the folks at Mystery Guild Book Club, part of New York-based direct marketer Bookspan's family of book clubs.
In December 2004, the Mystery Guild first tested its new penny package, a 6" x 9" outer envelope featuring two windowsone for the address and one revealing a penny affixed to the reply card inside. The idea is simpleuse the penny as a way to entice recipients to open the envelope. "We figured giving money to someone ... would just attract people's eye and reinforce what we had to sell," says Eileen Alterbaum, vice president of Mystery Guild's new member marketing. "We're always looking for involvement devices and something a little
Alterbaum notes that using the penny does present some challengesincluding additional logistics and security. Production costs are slightly higher for the package, and you can't source new pennies or ensure that they're all facing up. Affixing the penny also makes the production time about one-third longer, the VP adds, noting that although the pennies add weight, the envelope still runs through as a regular letter. "This occurred to us as the least cost and the most breakthrough, because when you compare this to the cost of other things like scratch-offs and adhesives, those can be quite expensive."
Regardless of the additional considerations, the results have been worth it, according to Alterbaum. "We tested it last year, and we got fantastic double-digit lifts wherever we tested it," she says.
That success prompted Mystery Guild to roll it out again this past June. The results of the summer rollout also have pleased the marketer. "We did a back test again," says Alterbaum. "One of the segments softened, but still [was] positive. And another segment held up nicely versus the original test, so by and large, we're pretty excited by it. We still have to evaluate it in terms of cost and long-term performancebecause our business has an up-front response rate, as well as a long-term performance goalbut I think, when all is said and done, it'll certainly be one of the versions that we rotate."
Alterbaum believes a lot of the package's success has to do with the strength of the offer, which has been modified to work with the penny concept. "Usually the offer tends to be something like five books for 99 cents," she says. "We brought the offer down ... [to] a penny to make it all work together."
The offer also is versioned for two segments: new pros-pects and re-enrollspast customers whose membership has lapsed. Prospects receive an offer of six books for a penny for becoming a member (Archive code #125-173775-0507A), while lapsed members receive a slightly more valuable offer of eight books for a penny for rejoining (Archive code #125-173775-0507B). "Those are the most valuable members for us, and we give them the better offer," says Alterbaum of the lapsed member segment. "The expires are far and away more responsive than the external market, with the more recent expires being even that much more responsive."
In fact, the response of the expires segment to the package did not disappoint. "The fact that the second test held up in the internalsmy expires segmenttells me that's where to prioritize my efforts," says Alterbaum.
Going forward, the marketer plans to test the mailing with its Doubleday Large Print book club.