5 Tactics for Designing Magalog Mailers

1 Mar

Originally published in Target Marketing’s Tipline E-Newsletter
by Britt Brouse
Aug 6, 2008

A direct mail package offering a publication or information-based product is most persuasive when it’s infused with the publication’s look, feel and content. Magalog formats combine editorial snippets with marketing tactics and mimic a magazine’s or newsletter’s layout to convert potential subscribers.

While magalogs are used mostly by publishers and B-to-B marketers, other sectors marketing information-based products may want to give the format a test. To get the most out of this approach, consider these tactics from two magalog experts.

1. Determine Your Measurements
Flat rates spiked in the May 2007 U.S. Postal System rate case, so most mailers are testing smaller, 6˝ x 10˝, slim-jim magalogs in lieu of the traditional 8 1/2˝ x 11˝ size. “We’ve tested those [slim jims] for some of our clients, and they don’t do as well as the big ones,” says Greg Wolfe, president of Circulation Specialists, a circulation and marketing company based in South Norwalk, Conn. Flats may perform better than slim jims, but if you test at a flat size, Wolfe warns that you need a big lift to offset the postage costs. Most magalog formats, flat-sized or slim-jim, range from 12 pages to 24 pages. Check the USPS’ rates to ensure that your magalog weighs in at the correct mail class; for slim-jim efforts, wafer seals also are required to achieve a machinable letter rate.

2. Pick Up the Magazine’s Design
“To us, a magalog is a miniature magazine without advertising; we pick up the feel, flavor and design elements from the magazine,” says Marty Davidson, president of Davidson & Maltz, a Claverack, N.Y.-based direct mail agency specializing in the publishing and television industries. Davidson uses similar fonts and page layouts, and he picks up the logos, color schemes and design elements from the magazine. “Our thinking is that when you actually get the product, the first free issue, you are seeing something that you’ve already seen: our magalog. So it just reinforces how clean and elegant the magazine is.”

3. Think of the Cover as the OE
“The thing about a magalog is you get right into it. With a letter, you have to start by opening an envelope, and if [recipients] don’t open the envelope, then you’ve really lost them,” Davidson relates. To make the magalog cover work, use catchy cover lines. Davidson cites the cover line for a recent Men’s Health magalog, which reads, “Build Your Body With Your Brain (Not with Your Brawn!).” To capitalize on the small cover space available on a slim-jim magalog, Wolfe suggests using multiple thumbnail cover images instead of just one, showing the premium and using white space for important teaser copy. Wolfe also supports calling out a freemium. “Any kind of recipe, tip sheet, restaurant listing or subway guide, anything you can refer to as, ‘Free Item Enclosed on Page 5,’ I think that’s good.”

4. Plug the Offer Over and Over
While a magalog may not look like advertising mail, it is a really good vehicle for promoting an offer. “If it’s a free issue or it’s a premium offer, then we try to repeat that on every page,” Wolfe says. “You can really push the offer at every spread,” Davidson agrees. Both hard and soft offers carried over from traditional packages work well in magalog formats, and including a BRE will greatly increase cash with order. One of Wolfe’s clients saw up to 40 percent of its orders come in paid up front when using a BRE. Davidson advises driving home the offer by placing a letter on the last full spread of the magalog and ending it on the right-hand page with the promotion of a free gift. “This way, they go through and see how exciting the magalog is, and then they get this letter at the end and page 16 [the last page] is always the free gift,” he says.

5. Test a Control Package Versus a Magalog
“We did a head-to-head test where we had a copywriter write copy—one version of it for the magalog and one version for the 6˝ x 9˝ package—and they didn’t have to do that much changing to make it work in both formats. It was much more of a design issue—pulling the pieces apart and making them into their own little components,” Wolfe says. In that test the magalog format won by a considerable margin. It is also possible to repurpose a control package into a magalog format for testing. “All the components of a [letter] package are actually in a magalog, just in a different shape,” Davidson says. While you can translate some control package elements to create a magalog test, Davidson warns that a traditional package doesn’t provide nearly enough content to complete a magalog version and requires additional copywriting and design treatments.

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