Greenpeace Poses a ‘Yes or No’ Question

13 May

At the end of a voucher-heavy control series, this small, image-driven appeal boosts renewals

Just like passing a juvenile note to your crush in grade school that asks, “Do you like me?” from a marketer’s or copywriter’s point of view, asking a prospect point-blank, “Will you subscribe/join/donate—Yes or No?” sounds like a recipe for disaster. But “Will You Renew? Yes or No” is the simple question behind a Greenpeace control that’s been in the mail for more than 10 years and was sent again this past July to prospects.

Yet this copy does not do all of the work on its own. The question is paired with a panel of six opposing images; three pristine images of the environment next to three images of ecological disaster. The copy “Will You Renew?” appears at the top of the reply form, and “Yes or No” is lined up with the good and bad images, respectively, at the bottom.

When Greenpeace puts a yes or no question up against such powerful images, it becomes an effective tactic and lodges in the prospective donor’s mind. “I see a lush forest, a beautiful lake with mountains and a whale tale versus a clear-cut forest, a whale being pulled up on the side of a ship and a bird covered in oil. So without having to read anything, you think, ‘Of course, I am going to renew because this is what I want for my future and my children’s future,’” says Robyn Fuller, manager of direct response with the Washington, D.C.–based environmental organization.

While the impact of the package is huge, it’s delivered in a minimal carrier. The effort travels in a small 4˝ x 7½˝ outer with the teaser copy, “THE CHOICE IS YOURS,” along with “MEMBERSHIP RENEWAL” in a red stamped font. “We always like to have the word ‘renewal’ on the carrier so people know it’s a renewal and not an appeal, and ‘The choice is yours’ ties into the ‘Yes or No’ on the inside form,” Fuller says. Within the package is one narrow 6¼˝ x 13¾˝ page with the copy and images—a reply card perfed to the bottom—and a BRE.

Success Within a Series
Greenpeace’s Yes or No proposition is also successful because it’s positioned as the sixth mailing in a nine-package renewal series sent to previous members. By the time the prospect receives this appeal, she’s received packages one and two in the series, which are #10 letter packages with a membership card showing through the front window.

Then there are renewals three and four, which are more traditional letter packages, followed by the fifth package, which Fuller describes as a “corporate enemies” effort. “We have a package that says, ‘These people don’t want you to renew your support in Greenpeace,’ so it’s the head of Kimberly-Clark, the head of ExxonMobil, different people who we’ve targeted over the years for causing great environmental problems,” Fuller describes.

The Yes or No mailer falls in at No. 6 and is trailed by three more notices, including a straight invoice, a package with an address label freemium and a final notice, Fuller says. Compared to the other packages in the series, the Yes or No effort stands out as unique. “This one is more touchy-feely with the images of what we’re doing to save the planet versus the problems we have with it. It’s a very different feel than just a membership card with a straight invoice,” Fuller says. She even hopes recipients are moved to put this on their refrigerators or up in their cubicles at work.

Green Mailing Practices
Greenpeace’s environmental mission extends into its direct marketing. To cut down on wasted materials, Fuller says the organization employs extensive data hygiene. Greenpeace logs donor responses as quickly as possible to limit repeat mail between each of the renewal mailings.

To keep the mailing lists clean, Fuller not only employs the National Change of Address (NCOA) system, but she also uses a Proprietary Change of Address solution—a source developed by leading compilers of consumer data, which contains changed address information that the U.S. Postal Service’s NCOA alone does not cover. Fuller says these address verification efforts are especially helpful in eliminating waste. “We really make sure to keep all of our records as clean as possible so that we’re not wasting paper and sending out extra pieces of mail that we do not need to send out,” she affirms.

The format itself is pared down and printed on the highest recycled paper content that the organization can obtain, which helps save precious paper and production resources, and supports Greenpeace’s mission. “In the end, the less paper we can use, the better we feel. If we could just send out little invoices with a send-and-return envelope—and it worked, and we could bring the same amount of money in—we would,” Fuller jokes. “But you know you have to change up your format to make it look like a different package throughout the series, and you never know why people are responding. What’s triggering them to renew? Why doesn’t everybody just renew off of a first renewal notice that’s a membership card?” she asks.

Also, unlike many other nonprofit organizations, Greenpeace does not send premium-based mailings. “For fundraising, we do not have premiums … people give to us because they’re committed to what we’re doing. They’re not giving for the stuffed animal,” Fuller remarks.

Results and Future Campaigns
Each year, the Yes or No package performs at about a 3 percent response rate, and it is keeping up with that level this time around. Fuller says the bulk of the response comes from efforts one and two, which include a member card. “The first one gets about a 16 percent to 18 percent response rate, and the second one gets about a 10 percent response rate,” she says. Fuller believes that inserting a membership card creates a long tail for response. “A lot of people will hold on to that member card, and in their heads they know they joined in July so they’re not going to renew until July … even though they received all the other mailings,” she says.

Average gifts also are highest among the first effort and taper off throughout the series, sometimes spiking at the end or in online donations. “Our average gift goes up and down just by a few dollars per notice,” she says. The first notice usually pulls a $48 to $52 average gift, and that declines to about $42 or $43 by the sixth notice, with around a $45 average gift for the final notice. Greenpeace enriches its direct mail renewal series with telemarketing and e-mail campaigns.

The sixth mailing falls in the middle of the telemarketing program, which helps its response, and a small portion of donations come in via e-mail. After the direct mail hits, Fuller says she sees huge spikes in web hits and captures a small margin of online donations. Including an area on the mail reply card for donors to fill in their e-mail addresses gives Greenpeace the opportunity to send out even more e-mail solicitations in the future, especially because Fuller reveals that e-mail donors give about $5 to $8 more than mail donors.

To stay modern and fresh, Greenpeace is undergoing a slight branding and logo update. “We are testing a slightly new green … our logo’s the same, it’s just a slight change in color, just refreshing or modernizing it a bit,” Fuller explains. Fuller says that laser personalization makes testing fairly easy, but she’s not sure she will run extensive tests next year. “A couple of years ago, we did a lot of testing to the series; I mean in practically every package we did tests … This year, really, we haven’t tested as much,” Fuller says.

She may continue to test ask amounts, such as highest previous contribution versus most recent contribution. “Sometimes that works, especially later in the notices as people say, ‘I can’t afford to give $100 anymore. I’ve just been giving $25,’ and then you ask them based on that more recent $25,” she describes. One thing is for certain: This control will remain a major part of the series for many years to come. “After all, it has held up for close to 10 years!” Fuller exclaims.

(originally published in Inside Direct Mail, November 2008).

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