The Insert as Demonstrator
We've commented before on the weaning of inserts from direct mail packages. The quarter-inch thick envelope package, jammed with elements, seems a thing of the past.
But inserts, or buckslips, are far from extinct. In fact, those marketers still using them have very strong reasons for doing so, as these pieces can provide strategic support to the sales message in your main elements.
For example, Consumers Reports includes an insert in its #11 envelope control that drives home the point of how consumer product knowledge helps shoppers get the best buys for their money--the main benefit exhorted in the sales letter (202CONREP1201).
The insert is an effective "demonstrator" for the magazine, in the way it allows recipients to test their shopping skills. Readers are offered two comparative products--such as different brands of camcorders--from which to choose the better value; the answers are under the fold, which helps readers gauge their need for the magazine based on how many incorrect answers they gave. The back panel of the insert features a list of investigative reports taken from the pages of the magazine.
According to Circulation Director Simon Aronin, the #11 envelope effort (produced by copywriter Peter Gelb) is the magazine's most persistent control, although the publication likes to keep several different efforts in the mail at a time to protect against package fatigue.
This particular insert, Aronin says, has been included in the #11 control off and on for eight years. The upshot is that when the insert gets mailed for a while, the package tests well without it. When the mailing has gone without the insert for a bit, the effort begins to perform better with it included. Unless you test elements individually, this natural ebb and flow of fatigue might never be noticed.
Aronin reports that the insert content is updated to keep the information current; the promotion team vets the copy with Consumer Reports' product testers and editors, to be sure the examples are still accurate and relevant.
Consumer Reports also keeps the insert alive by switching up the design every so often.