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Next In Line

A look at our first-prize winners

Infinity Direct

Plymouth , Minnesota

“Dr. Garmont’s Magical Marketing Mailer”

Calling Dr. Garmont! To increase awareness of Infinity Direct while emphasizing the company’s ability to build a brand, the marketing firm created a fictional, old-time character, the mysterious Dr. Garmont, who practically invented direct marketing and possesses the knowledge and experience to cure any client’s marketing ills.

• An initial direct mail piece, designed to look like a well-worn doctor’s bag, included a PURL.

• Mailing activated a triggered e-mail campaign and directed recipients to a targeted website containing a movie and an interactive game.

Volume: 1,500

Cost: $19,615

Results: A 17.25 percent response rate, based upon visits to the Infinity Direct microsite

McCullough Creative

Dubuque, Iowa

“They Got What They Wanted”

Supporting the successful launch of a new line of John Deere excavating equipment while trying to dispel consumer concerns over new emission standards, McCullough created a telescoping direct mail piece directing recipients to a microsite address or to an enclosed Business Reply Mail® card.

• Once at the microsite, potential customers could access video testimonials, machine specs, a magazine article and a “build sheet” to custom order a new excavator.

• Because direct mail remains the preferred response vehicle with this campaign’s demographic, respondents also could request additional information or a premium item via the Business Reply Mail card tipped into the piece.

Volume: 16,800

Incentive: Choice of a John Deere tape measure or flashlight to recipients requesting more information

Cost: $37,800 ($2.25 per piece)

Results: 2 percent response rate; 42 qualified leads driven to independent John Deere dealerships.

Our Judges

Submissions were judged by Deliver editors Thomas J. Foti and Lori Brown Savage, magazine staff members and marketing experts Jason Mlicki and Ethan Boldt. Mlicki is president and lead strategist for Mlicki, the eponymous agency that won the first Deliver M.A.I.L. Award last year. Boldt is chief content officer for DirectMarketingIQ and editor-in-chief of Inside Direct Mail Weekly, an e-newsletter for the direct mail industry.

Building a Buzz

Author, Gen Y expert shares insights to help marketers connect with a new generation of customers.

By Allan Nahajewski

As the founder and CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, Tina Wells has made it her business to keep her finger on the pulse of the “Millennial” generation. As the author of Chasing Youth Culture and Getting It Right — a leading field guide on understanding this increasingly influential demographic group — Wells is trying to help CMOs make Millennials (those born between 1985 and 2004) their business as well.

The stakes, of course, are huge. Millennials — also known as Gen Y — represent a $43-billion market, so getting it right with this generation of consumers can make or break a business.

We asked Wells to share her perspectives and insights on Millennials, marketing and mail.

Deliver: Beyond the obvious, what should marketers know about Millennials?

Wells: This may sound obvious, but so many marketers miss the fact that technology is the language of the Millennial generation — and I do include myself in that group; I’m 32. We’ve all learned to speak this language. We speak it fluently. Everything we do, everything we talk about — it all has a tech piece to it. Marketers need to understand that. For example, some magazines are learning that their iPad app is the most important part of their brand. All of the magazines that I receive today, I also receive on my iPad. It’s convenient for traveling.

Now, some traditionalists may freak out and think that technology is replacing everything. It’s not. It’s just a different language that Millennials are choosing to speak.

Deliver: What role does direct mail best play in reaching Millennials?

Wells: It’s an interesting situation: Because technology is playing such a key role in young people’s lives, the need for personal communication is even greater. There’s also a greater need for the tangible, touchable, real-life communication — which is the strength of direct mail. All of that stuff still really matters. There is such a thing as technology overload. If anything, mail is more welcome. It can counterbalance the tech side.

Interestingly, I wrote a children’s book about a 12-year-old girl named Mackenzie Blue. In the book, she talks about how she loves getting mail from her friends — and sending mail to her friends. It’s an important part of her life.

Deliver: Do you think Millennials like getting mail even more than older people do?

Wells: Yes. I’ve learned in my research that what may seem to be obvious may, in fact, not even be true. For example, some people will talk about young people’s obsession with tech devices, but on the whole, their relationship with technology is generally healthy and proper. Because they grew up with it, they know when to stop, when to put it down and when it’s time for other forms of communication. It’s the people who did not grow up with it that tend to develop obsessive behaviors.

Technology is a luxury that many Millennials take for granted, but it doesn’t rule their lives. Mail is a part of their lives as well — although to some that may seem counterintuitive.

Deliver: Tell us about the four main tribes of Millennials, specifically why marketers need to know about them.

Wells: Millennials are not all alike. To view a generation as a single entity is a marketing misstep. Based on psychographics and behaviors, Millennials best fit into four different groups or, as we call them, “tribes”: the Wired Techie, the Conformist but Somewhat Paradoxical Preppie, the Cutting-Edge Independent, and the Always Mellow Alternative.

The Techies are like the nerds of yesteryear. The people that no one talked to are now the coolest kids in school because everyone is interested in technology. They’re really setting trends so it’s important for marketers to look at how best to engage with them.

The Preppie is the big-man-on-campus type, the captain of the basketball team, the one who knows everyone and is friendly with everybody.

The Independents are always going to do their own thing. Whatever the mainstream is about, the independent leans toward the opposite.

Alternatives are looking for something different, too, but not exactly opposite. For example, Alternatives years ago put the focus on going green, organic and sustainable. To this group, if you’re not one of those things, you don’t matter.

Learn as much as possible about who your customers really are, what they want. Do they even want your product? Does it cause any problems for them? Once we get all the answers to these questions, we can figure out where they are and engage with them. That’s probably the most important takeaway I can offer.

Deliver: Any specific examples of effective direct mail campaigns targeting Millennials?

Wells: Those who don’t think that mail and Millennials mix should consider a tween clothing retailer that ships about 11 million catalogs a month — or rather, “catazines” — half catalog, half magazine. These seem to do really, really well.

At Buzz Marketing, we’ve found great success with direct mail, especially reaching younger Millennials. And some fashion and celebrity gossip magazines aimed at teens use mail well as part of their marketing. Polybagging with calendars, for example, has been well received. By doing this, they’ve used mail to add value to the magazine subscriptions and get across a branding message.

What’s exciting about Web 2.0 is that technology that used to cost so much money — content management systems, building a website — now it’s free. And when you integrate these tools with direct mail — when you combine high tech with high touch — you’re on the path to making strong connections.

Deliver: What trends do you see with Millennials? What’s in their future?

Wells: One trend we’re looking at now is employment. This is a generation of kids who are not convinced that they have to go to work for somebody else. They have watched their parents work their whole lives for big companies, but there have been so many examples of entrepreneurs being successful at a young age — even college dropouts — it’s changing perceptions and expectations.

Also, this is a generation that knows how to shop online and to hunt for the best deal. It’s no longer about going into a store and buying whatever is on sale. We are seeing those trends right now, with more than $1 billion of business being done on Cyber Monday. People are enjoying their holiday shopping from the comfort of their own couch.

Deliver: What can we expect five years from now?

Wells: Technology will continue to evolve with newer and better devices. But there will still be a role for mail and print and personal communications.

Some technology takes time to take hold. We’ve found that only 20 percent of Millennials know what QR Codes are and know how to use them. A couple of years from now, I expect it will be an entirely different story.

Deliver: Any final thoughts on Millennials, marketing and mail?

Wells: Sure. My conclusion is that young people get so many brand messages a day that a brand needs to use as many channels as it can. That definitely includes mail — for both older and younger Millennials, especially older Millennials.

Mail crosses all generations.

Youth Must Be Served

Getting a jump on understanding the generation coming up behind the Millennials.

Ask any parent: Staying on top of youth trends is not easy. Tina Wells has found a way. In fact, she publishes a monthly “Tina’s Top Ten” e-zine that reports on the hottest trends in fashion, beauty, entertainment and lifestyles. How does she do it? Part of the answer is having a team of 9,000 young people, called the “buzzSpotter®” network, provide a stream of “youth intelligence.” They share input through surveys, polls, focus groups and interviews. The network formed when a teen girl magazine wrote a feature on Tina’s Buzz Marketing Group, resulting in 15,000 applications from around the world. The buzzSpotter® network is just part of the company’s research efforts, which also include a Buzz Youth Institute panel of trendsetters, psychologists and sociologists. The company also conducts a quarterly Blue Pulse survey and partners with other companies to access general market research trends.

Testing for Success

Despite shrinking budgets and increasing costs, marketers continue to find campaign testing an indispensable tool for success. And they’re mixing classic measurement techniques with the new to get the job done.

By Sharon M . Goldman

When marketers discuss how direct mail fits into their overall campaign efforts, it is often described as the “workhorse” — dependable, reliable and effective; the channel that guarantees a tactile piece of marketing material will reach a prospect’s mailbox. For Kurt Konow, a Chicago marketing strategist at Ricoh, a global technology company, that is certainly true.

Konow says that direct mail remains a vital component of every marketing campaign he works on. But as the economy has struggled over the last few years and budgets have been squeezed, marketers like Konow are more pressed than ever to prove the viability of direct marketing and its many channels. And marketers these days, more than ever, are rising to the test. Literally.

In an age of multiple mailings, integrated campaigns and shifting audiences, some marketers are finding it more essential than ever to test the efficacy of their marketing. And they are leveraging a wide array of tools to figure out just how well their campaigns are faring and how to refine those campaigns along the way. “It’s more important than ever to show the physical piece is still bringing in returns, that you’re getting people to respond and converting people with your message and offer — because it’s often the first thing to be eliminated,” says Konow, who estimates that he sends out a half-dozen direct mail campaigns each month to both B-to-C and B-to-B prospects. In order to offer that solid proof to the powers-that-be, he emphasizes, testing of direct mail results is “critical.”

Testing has been central to the direct marketer’s role for decades, of course, as companies work to ideally attain the highest response and conversion rates possible without maxing their budgets. Any number of testing tactics persist, from database and reporting interfaces and data analysis to test mailings that gauge the response of everything from the mailing list, the offer, the messaging, the type of package and even the kind of stamp. Classic testing techniques include A/B splits (in which a baseline control mail sample is tested against several single variable changed options), and multivariate testing (in which multiple design elements are changed at the same time), as well as list segment testing. And all of it may be going on at the same time for various campaigns, says Renee Mezzanotte, executive vice president of client services at DMW Direct, a direct response advertising agency in Chesterbrook, Pa.

“We’re always testing variables with our clients — we’re never satisfied with the status quo,” she explains. “There’s an expense tied to testing, and marketers can be fearful of that, but you need to prove the performance of a piece because there’s definitely more eyes on DM than practically any other part of the budget.”

Changes to the test

While direct mail remains a solid foundation for many marketers, times are changing both in terms of campaign structure and the back-end testing of results. With a proliferation of other marketing channels, some of which are still in a nascent evolution (such as social media and mobile) and others which have matured in recent years (such as e-mail and online advertising), today’s campaigns tend to be multichannel and holistic with a variety of response options — from e-mail, QR Codes and PURLs to simple toll-free numbers and in-person walk-ins, not to mention social media communications and text messaging.

When it comes to testing the success or failure of such multilayered campaigns, however, the vast possibilities have amplified confusion among marketers regarding the what, why and how of direct mail tests and created what experts describe as a combined sense of opportunity and a feeling of being completely overwhelmed. “The variables have broadened, with far more channels to look at,” says David Henkel, president of Johnson & Quin, a full-service direct mail production company based near Chicago. “There is just so much more to test, and without discipline by the entire organization, there can be a lot of missed opportunities in terms of understanding response.” And that includes the success of both the direct mail piece and the overall campaign.

Taking action in response to test results can be challenging as well, he adds, as marketing staffs have been downsized in response to budget cuts. “There’s a pressure to show evidence of direct mail success, but there are fewer of the folks who would traditionally be able to analyze and take action on the information,” he says.

However, sophisticated and creative marketers willing to invest the money and manpower are doing innovative tests and experiments that take an out-of-the-box approach to measuring response and results, says DMW’s Mezzanotte. “We’re testing in terms of creative positioning, different incentives, one-step packages versus lead generation, and even taking chances on concept testing,” she explains. “For instance, a national insurance company we work with had a sales force trying to connect with a small audience of credit union C-suite executives such as vice presidents of membership benefits and CFOs. We developed a warming campaign that included something oversized but not over-the-top in terms of budget. It had a little tactile-ness, but it cost only $5 in the mail.”

A personalized postcard was sent as a follow-up, and the company evaluated both soft and hard measurements. “Because the messaging was strong and a little different, the salespeople said every person they called and spoke to knew of the piece and it helped them a bit more,” adds Mezzanotte.

Carolyn Goodman — president of Goodman Marketing Partners, a multichannel direct response company in San Rafael, Calif. — says clients are beginning to turn their attention to testing communication nuances such as color, and addressing predictive modeling. Both areas are common in online campaign testing but far less common offline because of the increased cost. “Sophisticated marketers are learning and growing all the time and testing more subtle variables while seeing dramatic gains in results,” she says. “I definitely think testing should be a staple in the direct marketing arsenal, regardless of channel.”

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