The Fight Against Fatigue
When it isn't battling big media, corporate America and party lines, The Nation finds itself up against one of direct mail's most dangerous foes: package fatigue.
According to Art Stupar, vice president of circulation, The Nation mails nearly 2 million efforts each year to its housefile and other outside lists, making its long-standing control, which has been in circulation for more than a decade, a prime target for direct mail wear. To combat this, the progressive weekly relies on a rotating arsenal of high-performing packages and up-to-date content, as evidenced by an acquisition effort received by the Who's Mailing What! Archive in February (Archive code #202-171640-0502).
This 6" x 9" package is a variation on the control that Stupar refers to as "the media package." The front of the outer features six full-color screen shots from Fox News broadcasts with the teaser, "If you trust big media, don't open this envelope," in reverse type against a red background; this art is a cover shot that the magazine used when it did a feature story on Fox News.
The back of the envelope features more copy (in the original control, this copy is featured on the front of the plain white outer and the back panel is blank):
INSIDE: What the corporate-owned media aren't telling you about GWB, lying under oath, "democracy" in Afghanistan, US torture policies, the chemical industry's $150 billion nightmare, Social Security, red state sluts and MUCH, MUCH MORE.
PLUS: A mini-subscription to The Nation. FREE!
Although this is the first time the Archive has seen this colorful effort, the design "has been bouncing around in and out of the plan for several years, occasionally creeping up to the top of the list," states Stupar. "It gives us a fresh look for people who we may have mailed a year ago."
While the outer is the only thing that differentiates this package from the long-term control it is testing against, it's not the only tactic The Nation uses to keep its appeals new.
Each iteration of the package is refreshed with content about current events, which is placed into the control letter format: a listing of 12 reasons why a prospect would not want to accept a free mini-subscription. "The letter has a litany of different things we have covered over the period since we last mailed," states Stupar. "We add two or three new issues that would be of interest. And we highlight them on the back [of the outer envelope] as well."
In this, The Nation's first mailing since the 2004 election, the letter focuses on election-related topics:
1. If you believe America's corporate-owned big media played no part in winning this election for George W. Bush, you'd see no need for a journal that departs from their practice ...
2. If you are content to sink into a postelection despair that 'there is nothing we can do,' you'd have no interest in searching out people and initiatives that can advance a progressive agenda ...
Also taking a post-election slant is a new lift note from editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, which features not only updated copy, but a new look as well. In the past, acquisition packages have featured a note from vanden Heuvel, but always with her picture on the inside, next to her signature. This new design leverages her notoriety by featuring a larger image of her on the cover of the note. According to Stupar, "the jury is in" on tests of the new format ... and it's a winner.
Final results were not available on just how well the Fox News outer fared, but Stupar states that at press time, it was beating the plain outer of the control by a fair amount and that it already has earned itself a berth in his May 2005 mailing plan.
Tracy A. Gill