Tag Archives: direct mail

Transcending the Traditional vs. Digital Divide

There’s a growing division in the advertising world: a yawning chasm between traditional and digital approaches. Old-school marketers, direct mailers and brochures in hand, stand on one side, and tech-savvy SEO gurus, web developers, and AdWords adepts on the other.

Yes, sometimes the two sides work together, though typically in a patchwork-style campaign. Predictably, the results usually fall flat.

This schism between analog and online isn’t just wrong-headed—it entirely overlooks the enormous power unleashed when both sides work seamlessly in a cohesive strategy. Both types of media become exponentially more effective when working as one.

Moving Beyond with a Media-Agnostic Approach

Too many agencies, advertisers, and businesses side with a camp from the onset, before even considering the specifics of the campaign at hand. Would a mechanic trash half his toolbox before discovering why the car isn’t starting? Would a general dismiss half his troops before determining the mission? You get the idea.

Before restricting ourselves to certain media channels, we work closely with clients to intimately understand the goals, challenges, and needs of the campaign. Only then do we proceed with a media-agnostic approach to implementing it. We go with whatever delivery methods work best—and that usually involves a combination of tradition and digital tools.

Digital platforms are indeed where more businesses are moving, and for good reason. It’s increasingly easy for customers to learn more, take action, or make a purchase online. But that doesn’t mean traditional tools are obsolete.

Some of the most successful efforts leverage the considerable power of traditional media—a physical brochure, a captivating sign, a direct mailing—to capture attention and send customers to a digital destination—a landing page, a mobile app, an ecommerce store—where they can heed the call to action.

Great campaigns make use of all tools at their disposal, merging digital and traditional media in a sharp, channel-agnostic strategy. The dichotomy between digital and traditional media is a false one: transcend it to make your message more effective. To paraphrase Aristotle, the whole is far, far greater than the sum of the parts.

Author: Zack Smith


How Smelly Is Your Design?

In the world of design we’re brought up to understand there are certain rules to follow when laying out a piece. Guidelines exist to help designs resonate with our intended audiences. For example, in photography the “rule of thirds” teaches us to divide our shots into a grid format and place our subjects in any of the nine sections—none of which is dead center. The phrase “form follows function” is another example that’s been around for a century. It reminds us that an object should be designed considering its function first and that this will determine its form.

A poor creative team, on the other hand, may spend hours deliberating about the appropriate message for a direct mail envelope. In reality, it’s the shape of the piece and the color of the design that humans connect with first. Content always comes later.

These rules exist because they’ve been tested over the years. Through the use of eye-tracking technology and decades of focus groups, we’re able to say with certainty where eyeballs go when they look at design.

But what if we did more than just followed the rules of design visually? What if we triggered other senses beyond sight? What about taste? What about smell? We’ve been to the grocery store enough times to know that giving away food samples is one of the most ingenious forms of marketing. From the sizzle of the frying pan and the smell that fills the aisles to the moment you take that tiny toothpick and take a bite––you’d swear you’ve never eaten such good sausages.

Well, that full-blown experience is a marketer’s dream. There isn’t a limb on an advertiser’s body that he or she wouldn’t give up to utilize scent in an ad campaign. The limbic connection between smell and memory is the perfect recipe for all things nostalgia. Freshly mowed lawns, our mother’s baking, and even the smell of Play-Doh all have the potential to elicit something deep within us.

It doesn’t look like Smell-O-Vision will be put to practical use anytime soon. It does seem, however, that a team out of Belgium has figured out how to express both scent and taste using stamps. The Belgian post office, known as Bpost, has produced more than 500,000 smellable/edible stamps celebrating Belgium’s world-famous chocolates and chocolatiers.

While it’ll be a bit before I see myself licking an already-licked stamp, I can’t deny how effective it might be in triggering those chocolate-driven memories stored deep inside me.

The Belgians are breaking the rules—those zany rebels! What else can we come up with to more effectively reach our consumers?

To learn about how those chocolate stamps are made, check out this video: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21388234

Author: Eric Swenson

BMW’s Brand-New Twin-Turbo 560-HP Printing Press!

Having trouble coming up with a stimulating idea for direct mail? Maybe you should look at how BMW is pushing the envelope! Never before has a 560-horsepower BMW M6 been converted into a printing press, but there is a first for everything, right?

In a creative attempt to demonstrate how the new BMW M6 can “peel the pavement,” BMW partnered with Classic Color, Toyo Ink, and Sappi Fine Paper. They all reported to Blackhawk Farms Raceway to test out a new, turbo-charged printing press. Watch the symphonic culmination below:

I gather that most companies out there don’t have this type of cash to spend on direct mail projects, but this is an inspiring example of how far outside the box you can go with a simple printed piece. After all, everything comes down to return on investment, and I would guess BMW only has to sell ten of these cars to make up for this stunt.

I hope this helps stimulate your creative brain … Come up with anything yet?

Author: T. John Mehl

How Do You Make a Onetime Donor a Longtime Donor?

In my June 20th post, Should You Rely on Design to Boost Your Direct Mail Response Rates?, I wrote about the factors contributing to the success of a direct marketing piece and how getting the ratio right––or wrong––can dramatically affect the outcome of your mailing. Related to this, Christine Birkner’s article “Give—and Give Again” in Marketing News magazine outlines essential strategies for cultivating repeat donors. It’s great advice that I’m certain to add to my toolbox of marketing techniques for clients.

Birkner details five key components to getting that donor you love to keep sending you the money you need. Her first point is to stop thinking of donations as onetime transactions and, instead, to think of donating as something that occurs in cycles. Through my own experience, I suggest talking to donors as “partners” in whatever goal you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re a recipient of President Obama’s constant stream of fundraising emails, you’ll know that he and his team are very anxious to make you see that nothing’s over until it’s over. This is the same principle.

Next, Birkner writes that your organization should sell its story. In advertising, we often talk about keeping the message consistent in the various channels you use to communicate (as challenging as that may be). This idea is important to remember when you solicit potential donors. Be sure to talk about who you are, what you do, and why it’s beneficial. If your story departs from the original message, you dilute your objectives and confuse the reader.

Birkner’s next point is that you should break with the status quo. I agree and suggest that you don’t do what’s been done before just because it’s been done. If Steve Jobs and Apple hadn’t chosen to break with conformity and innovate, who knows where they’d be today? Take a chance. Push the envelope and track your risks. Test, and then test again. You’ll never know how effective a change was if you don’t record the results.

I believe strongly in the importance Birkner’s fourth point: Express your gratitude. Your donors need to feel appreciated. They should be recognized and praised, and it should happen quickly. Use other channels, too, if you can. Consider using social media or a telephone call just to thank them. Then, follow up with a second thank-you and encourage a second gift. According to a source in the article, “If you can get somebody to give a second gift within the first three months, their retention rate skyrockets.” It’s important to get the feeling of a conversation going as soon as possible.

Finally, tell donors what’s working. I know I’m often guilty of spending too much time thinking about what goals our clients have and making sure prospective donors know what they’re donating for. I sometimes fail to tell these same clients, however, that they should be giving progress updates to donors who may be wondering, So your theater is raising money to get better makeup and costume design tools, and I just donated $50––what have you done with my money?

A situation like this is the perfect opportunity to bring donors into the story. Tell them how you were able to buy some great stage makeup for Audrey in this year’s performance of Little Shop of Horrors. Or how the bellhop’s costume in Grand Hotel had the audience roaring in laughter. These little peeks at the specific improvements made possible by their donation dollars are the perfect way to demonstrate return on investment.

When 40% of your direct marketing campaign is supposed to be a great offer and you’re working with nonprofits, it can be a tricky sell when the benefit to the donor is simply a feel-good high. Applying these principles may be the thing you need to keep that onetime donor donating.

Author: Eric Swenson

Should You Rely on Design to Boost Your Direct Mail Response Rates?

I love a good challenge. A client of mine came to me the other day with a good one. He, an employee of a NY-based university, said that the school was about to begin soliciting alumni for donations. The school had done this twice before but had less-than-impressive results. Could I help him?

I really appreciate when clients think like this. So much of agency marketing work relies on coming up with smart ways of executing communication solutions. This, however, was a situation where we got to be a part of the process—where we were able to help find the solution, not just execute it.

In direct mail, there’s a concept known as the 40-40-20 rule. That is, 40 percent of direct mail success depends on a well-planned mailing list, 40 percent on a compelling offer, and 20 percent on creative work. Unfortunately, I’d say most direct mail actually operates more at 15-15-30. (And yes, I know that math isn’t right.)

Before I continue, let me say now that we really love this client. This has nothing to do with marketing naïveté (well, maybe some) or competence levels. These are smart people who have only just begun this process––they’re just not sure of the best way to approach this. And that’s where we come in.

We told them to look closely at their audience: Who are these people? When did they graduate? Where do they live now? Have you heard from them since? By segmenting their list into manageable demographics and psychographics, they can better target their potential customers. People are not interchangeable, and they shouldn’t be treated that way.

Next, consider the offer. What would it take for you to open a #9 envelope? What would make you take action? If you hadn’t heard from your alma mater in 20 years and suddenly it began asking you for money, how would you feel? And thus, what incentive would it have to offer in order for you to contribute your hard-earned dollars?

If you’re looking to improve the effectiveness of your direct mail campaigns, take a look at this ratio. Eighty percent of it has nothing to do with your creative. One shouldn’t, however, shortchange the creative. This final 20 percent is crucial to conveying your message. It determines how that message is constructed and how effective it is at grabbing one’s attention. Don’t saturate, clutter, or distract the viewer in any way. Humans have the attention span of a fish, it seems. Keep their eyes on the prize.

Author: Eric Swenson