Like all forms of direct response advertising, direct mail is a cost-conscious medium. Creativity in direct mail is not about dreaming up clever headlines or snazzy graphics. It’s about finding the least expensive way to make the most amount of money. Low cost, high value ideas turn copywriters into heroes.
Consider this simple insert from a direct mail package I received recently offering a subscription to The New York Times. They could have enclosed a large, four-color insert detailing the benefits of subscribing. But why?
Many subscription packages these days are little more than “invoice” letters, providing a deep-discount offer and a reply form. They’re about as simple as it gets for a direct mail package.
The reason? Popular newspapers and magazines are already well-known. Most people have read, or at least heard about, publications like The New York Times. They don’t need to be told in detail about why it’s a great paper to read. All they need is a good offer at the right time.
This particular direct mail package consists of a two-color letter, printed on one side, with a perforated reply form at the bottom. The letter copy is short but personalized. A brief list of benefits is on the right, with the most important being the offer of 50% off for 6 months.
You can return the reply form in the enclosed business reply envelope, call an 800 number, or subscribe online. It’s all very straightforward.
The insert is the nifty trick I want to point out.
In direct mail, getting people to open the envelope is difficult. Maybe 80 percent or more of recipients will throw away the envelope unopened. This is ironic, since I believe most copywriters and designers spend very little time thinking about the envelope, spending most of their time on the contents. But the envelope is crucial.
In this package, the envelope is clearly branded with the Times logo and return address. So people know who it’s from. And there’s a simple envelope teaser:
FREE GIFT INSIDE
Save 50% for 6 months when you resubscribe today.
Those three words, “FREE GIFT INSIDE,” is the extra incentive to open the envelope. And the gift? The nifty insert, which is a bookmark. It’s just a little bit of paper and a smidgen of ink. But it’s not a rip-off, because the bookmark is printed on slightly stiff paper, enough to serve as a real bookmark. People who read the Times are “readers,” so a bookmark is appropriate. And the bookmark provides five handy tips on solving The New York Times Crossword Puzzle, one of the most popular features of the paper.
This makes the insert just enough to get people inside the envelope and just enough to be a real gift. There’s the cleverness of it. Low cost, but high value. And a potential boost in the number of people who open the envelope and therefore read the offer inside and respond.
Question: What “cheap” direct mail ideas have you seen or used recently that offered the winning combination of low cost and high value?