Whether you call then snap “packs” or snap “paks” or snap “pacs,” this little direct mail format has worked wonders for businesses of all kinds.
The photo shows a fairly typical snap pack: outer envelope that opens with one or more perforated strips, inserts, and order form. It’s really just a direct mail package that looks official.
While writing a column on this snap pack for DM News recently, I chatted with Ted Grigg about the snap pack format and thought it was so interesting that I decided to do a formal interview and share his know-how with you.
By way of introduction, Ted is the owner of DMCG, LLC, a direct marketing consultancy based in Dallas, Texas. Ted is what you might call a one-man “think tank” for direct marketing. If you’re not reading his blog, start. You’ll learn something with every post.
Ted is one of the smartest guys in direct marketing and was there when the snap pack burst onto the scene.
Dean: When was the snap pack invented?
Ted: To my knowledge, the Snap Pack was first tested by National Liberty Corporation in Valley Forge, PA in 1981.
Dean: Where did the idea come from?
Ted: In the late 70’s and early 80s, the IRS used UARCO’s continuous form Snap Pack to issue tax notices to millions of people. They were cheap to produce and personalize in large quantities using mainframe computers running the old 1430 impact printers.
Dean: Why do you think snap packs have worked so well over the years?
Ted: They looked like an official announcement by the government. The copy in successful Snap Packs also mimicked the well-known telegraph style with short sentences and factual information provided in the form of news or an important, special announcement. It was also like a special bulletin devoid of high pressures selling. Yet it was high pressures, because it sounded like something that was enacted by law.
In fact, some Snap Packs looked so official for Senior Medicare Supplement health care products that some state insurance regulators disallowed the use of Snap Packs in their states for long periods of time. It was considered deceptive advertising by some state insurance commissioners.
Dean: Are there certain types of offers well-suited to snap packs? Any that don’t work well?
Ted: Products that require high quality packaging and beautiful 4 color photography do not lend themselves to the Snap Pack sell. These would include such things as luxury automobiles, high-end cosmetics or portrait photography. Insurance, financial, training, fund raising and other non tangibles do well using the Snap Pack format and copy style. This approach still has applications that have not yet been tested and could probably beat a number of present direct mail controls.
Dean: How economical are snap packs compared to other formats?
Ted: In quantities of 100,000 or more, only large postcards or single piece self mailers cost less. You get 4 into 1 pieces for the price of a self mailer, yet the pulling power often exceeds the classic envelope package.
Dean: Does it take special equipment or stock to manufacture snap packs? How are they made?
Ted: It depends how you define the Snap Pack. There is only one supplier that still runs large volumes of Snap Packs using impact printing. The price is competitive, but the volumes are limited.
There are Snap Pack hybrids that have performed well and displaced a number of controls. But the people on the creative team need to familiarize themselves with the elements that make the classic Snap a winner and follow those as a guideline in the copy and design.
Dean: How different are today’s snap packs? I remember they used to have transferable carbon spots on the inside.
Ted: Yes they did. And those carbon spots gave the whole package its pulling power. The splotchy personalized names and addresses made it clear that the message was more important than the look. These packages are downright ugly, and that’s exactly why they work so well.
Think of the emergency broadcasting system. It sounds terrible on the radio and TV with that irritating “Beep… Beep… Beep,” but it grabs your attention. The message is more important than the production quality.
Dean: What is the typical call to action? Phone? Mail?
Ted: The action is the same as it would be for any offer made by the company. It can be every means available depending upon how recipients want to respond. We even associate a landing page for Internet response as we do for any other format.
Dean: Do snap packs work well for driving response to Web offers?
Ted: Snap Packs work well to drive response, period. The challenge is to get noticed, then investigated, then immediate response. These packages work well as two-step or one-step. The flexibility is the same as any other direct mail format when it comes to the offer.
Dean: I’ve seen snap packs used a lot for driving phone calls to hard-sell “get-rich-quick” businesses. Are there any negative associations with this format today because of this?
Ted: None that I know of. The proof is in the test results. And Snap Packs just win if they are created correctly. The heaviest users in the last few years were with banks, membership, fund raising and insurance companies.
Dean: Are there any special tricks for making a snap pack work well?
Ted: Yes. Keep it neat but official. Use serif fonts and don’t get too fancy with the layout. Keep the copy to-the-point with heavy use of bulleted benefits. Make it look official with return addresses that say “From the Department of …” and seals that look like they were created in George Washington’s day.
Dean: An AARP snap pack I saw recently included a thick plastic membership card. Are inserts typical for snap packs?
Ted: Yes. We’ve used temporary paper and plastic membership cards, personalized address labels, plastic car seals and just about anything else that could be used in standard envelope packages.
Dean: All things being equal, will a direct mail package outperform a snap pack?
Ted: The Snap Pack is a direct mail package, except that it is produced by a forms manufacturer in a continuous format. And better than 50% of the time, it will outperform anything out there in the direct mail kingdom if done correctly for products that do not need four-color support.
Dean: Is there some special power in the snap pack format, or is it really a matter of economical production?
Ted: It is more the power of the format and style rather than lower production costs. The cost in large quantities (over one million) will cost about the same or a little less for small envelope packages. Manufacturing processes today no longer require a continuous form Snap Pack to get maximum economies of scale.
Dean: Thanks, Ted. As always, talking to you is like attending a graduate course on direct marketing.