This Fit Is Just Right
It's not too big, not too small; in fact, it's just right. This digest-sized magalog, or bookalog, titled "The Little Book of Favorite Homestyle Recipes," has proven to be the perfect fit for selling Southern Living's cookbook series (Archive code #101-171600-0603).
Yet the handy format, which was mailed in plenty about five years ago, dropped off of the Who's Mailing What! Archive's radar after 2002. It wasn't until a few months ago that a bookalog from the publisher turned up in the Archive again. So, did Southern Living find a better package in the meantime?
Julie Doll, senior promotion manager for Southern Living, assures us it didn't. "We've been mailing bookalogs consistently over the years," she says. "In fact, our first one was sent out in 2001, and we've been mailing them since."
She concedes, however, that the company reduced its bookalog distribution recently to try other options, stating that in the past few years a 6-1/2" x 11" package and a polybag package were tested against this mailing. "But nothing could beat the book-alog," says Doll. "In fact, the polybag mailing didn't come close."
The cover of this 5" x 7-1/2" effort features a large image of a fudge pecan ripple layer cake, and a smaller photo of a pecan pie appears on the back, next to the address panel and a number of starbursts touting elements of the offer:
"Save over 40%
Free Recipes Inside
Free Gift Token"
That last burst is actually a sticker respondents are to peel off and affix to the reply device.
The 32 interior pages are filled with mouth-watering photos, tips, editorially focused copy, a sampling of recipes found in the book and more call outs promoting the offer.
The goal of the bookalog is to entice readers to try out the "Homestyle Cooking" cookbook on a trial basis. This message is conveyed on the first page of the mailing, which is a letter from the editor about the abundance of tasty recipes available in the book, the first in a series of "kitchen-tested cookbooks" from Southern Living. The letter also promotes the "Ultimate Book of Appetizers," the premium for responding. Inserted into the back of the mailing is an RSVP card recipients can return for the appetizer cookbook, along with the homestyle cookbook to preview for 30 days. If the latter is not returned, the recipient is billed through the mail, but the premium is hers to keep.
When asked why this format performs better than others the publisher has tested in the past, Doll says it seems that the smaller size fits the subject matter best, and that the bookalog is clean and reads well. "With this format, we can do two-page spreads for each type of food, and it reads more like a book, which we think our audience better responds to."
That audience, reports Doll, typically consists of women from all walks of life, ages 40 and up.
Because of this mailing's success, Doll is testing the design out on a few newer publications, including "Life's Little Secrets & Shortcuts for Dummies" and "The Guide to Life after 50, 60, 70 and Beyond."
And while this piece continues to remain the control, the publisher has decided to explore a larger magalog format in more depth as a way to spice things up.
"The market ebbs and flows so much that we [think] it's time to retest the magalog again. And it comes down to the copywriters and what they decide to do," says Doll. "This time around we are using the larger format to sell brand new, bigger and better-than-ever books that need a lot of space. We've also begun using uncoated wrappers on the magalogs, especially if we are offering the book at a big savings and can use the wrapper to convey those discounts."
Doll adds that this specific piece, which was mailed in February, may be used again this fall and possibly another time early next year.
"We are still evaluating the response on this piece and will make that decision later," she said. "In general, we mail out about five bookalogs a year for various publications."
Sharon R. Cole is a Philadelphia-based writer contributing to print-industry publications.