They Made Us an Offer We Couldn't Understand
If you spend any time in these pages, you know how we feel about testing. With very, very few caveats, we endorse testing of all stripes.
We can't say, however, that we endorse what appears to be a testing gaffe on a recent mailing received from Islands magazine (202ISLAND0103). Make no mistake, we have nothing but respect for the operation at Islands. Its control mailinga billboard with a poly-pouched double postcardis one of the Who's Mailing What! Archive's Axel Andersson Grand Controls for publishing. (Visit www.insidedirectmail.com for more information.)
But on this tweaked version of its control mailing, a few wires seem to have gotten crossed in the fulfillment process. The billboard's front is identical to the control's, but the back and the double postcard boast a half-price offer. Which is all well and good ... except that printed boldly across the top of the billboard's front are the words "FREE Issue Offer," the deal extended in the control. Nowhere on the double postcard (or on the billboard back) is there a mention of a free issue. Whoops.
While the folks at Islands were willing to discuss the situation, they were not available to do so at press time. So we contacted some experts in the field of fulfillment, who offered some tips on how to avoid a similar dilemma in your next test.
"It comes back to the same old ruleyou can never have enough people proof-read a promotion," says Barry Blumenfield, CEO of BMI Fulfillment Services. "All too often the same people responsible for producing a promotion are the only ones who proof it. The problem is that since it is their work, and they are already very familiar with it, they don't look for errors or problems with the same enthusiasm as an outsiderwho knows that it makes him or her look good by catching an error that someone else missed."
Blumenfield specifies that representatives from various departments and suppliers who will be affected by a promotion should be included in the proofreading process and required to sign off on pieces.
"One client of ours never ran an ad without letting his wife, a fourth grade teacher, proofread it first," recalls Blumenfield. "If she found anything that her students wouldn't understand, it was changed accordingly."
But there's just no way to prevent each and every mistake. So what's a company to do in a situation where it finds itself with competing offers on the table?
"In this case, I would say that Islands would be best served by honoring both offers concurrently," says Blumenfield.
(According to Islands, the magazine is honoring the free-issue offer as well as the half-price offer; it plans on including the free-issue offer with any other offer the magazine tests.)
"They [seem to] have unwittingly tested a new offer," says Blumenfield. "They don't have much choice but to consider it a test. ... The alternative is for them to choose one or the other and send out an apology letter to all respondents. However, that would be embarrassing for the publication, and would most likely result in some cancellations."