Anatomy of a Control: A Major Acquisition
It's sold 4 million subscriptions since first rolling out in 1995. Tactful, thoughtful and genuine-certainly fundamental to its ability to remain relevant-the Mayo Clinic Health Letter also employs many of the finest direct mail tactics to great effect and continually makes small revisions to maintain its top-dog status.
"It's evolved over 15 years. It has changed quite a bit, but the fundamental concepts and base copy and base offer are largely the same," says Mark Johnson, the Carlisle, Pa.-based copywriter behind this control. Because the scale of this control is so large, with the Mayo Clinic sending 2 million to 5 million mailers per quarter, he spends two days per quarter in person meeting with the marketing folks at the Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis. "It's a group environment for test ideas," reports Johnson, who says they're usually tweaking the control to either bring the response rate up or compensate for package fatigue.
Its oversize kraft outer envelope is now famous, with the simple teaser, "Please favor us with a reply within 10 days." Now the brown kraft paper is simulated and created entirely by ink, with the "label" simply the original white paper. Formerly as large as 11" x 14", the in-line produced effort is now 10" x 14" in order to save on paper costs-Mayo Clinic tried going down to a 9" x 12", but it was a significant loser. Inside sits an eight-page letter with a lift note; another page featuring brochure-like copy on both sides; and another full page with a reply form, premium description and BRE (Archive code #250-178560-0901).
"That teaser has proven to be very effective, as the older market responds well to being asked for the courtesy of a reply," explains Johnson. With a list that consists mostly of 70-year-olds or older with slightly above average household incomes, much of the package is conceived and tweaked with them in mind.