Mail Order Cause Marketing

18 May

Read for the Cure hits prospects in the heart, with part of its subscription proceeds going to charity

In this tough economy, when consumers are cutting back on everyday niceties like dry cleaning, baby sitters, the beauty salon and gym memberships, a consumer magazine subscription can be a tough sell. But when you combine that offering with a cause, and do so at a very low price point, you may have better luck reaching that prospect’s heart and wallet.

In December, Read for the Cure, a for-profit agency owned and operated by Meredith Corp., mailed its first major rollout, offering prospects more than 100 magazine subscriptions to choose from—all at a flat rate of $10. The best part is, 10 percent of the subscription proceeds are donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a leading nonprofit organization working to end breast cancer (Archive code #280-175381-0901).

Other major publishers, like Time Inc. and Hearst, already have branches of their organizations that run agencies, points out Jon Macarthy, consumer marketing director for Meredith. “We did it because we already had extensive ties with Komen foundation—they were the natural partner to go to for this,” he says.

Ironically, despite so many prospects feeling the financial pinch, now can be a good time to reach them. “Particularly in the down economic times, people want a way to give to the causes that they want to, and if there’s a way to do it through purchases that they might make anyway, that just enhances the experience and makes it easier for them,” Macarthy says.

Read for the Cure performed months of testing to arrive at December’s control format, a pink 6˝ x 11˝ package with a two-page letter, lift note, stickers and address labels, four-color insert, sheet of magazine stamps to select titles, fast 100 sweepstakes to win a cookbook premium, reply card, and BRE. “This campaign had a full plate of testing, including versions of the control with and without various key components to determine their value,” Macarthy says. “Each [element] we test with or without, and if it pays for itself in response, we leave it in there,” he adds.

To be sure the package was performing at its best, he also tested different package sizes, outers, letters, which magazines were featured and the offer itself. “Based on testing [pricing], we’ve been able to move up how many magazines someone takes with every order incrementally … Now most people are taking well over two magazines on average,” he shares.

One of the challenges designing the package was finding the right mix between a publishing effort and a fundraising appeal. In some ways, the package uses some of the formulas of a Publisher’s Clearing House mailing, with stickers, stamps and even a sweepstakes. “Certainly, we took some learning that we got from Publisher’s Clearing House because they’ve been at that a long time, and they certainly know what they’re doing,” Macarthy notes. “We use the rose stickers [and address labels], which is very common in fundraising, so we borrowed from that world … and then added to that the kind of ease on the order card and the walking people through that we do on our own direct mail for our own titles. So we’ve been able to kind of mix some of the best practices from a number of areas,” Macarthy comments.

The effort mailed mostly to females who were likely to be both donors and readers from Meredith’s database of subscribers and outside lists. “We made extensive use of our own database because Meredith’s database tends to be heavily driven to women and homeowner women, and this is a cause that rings true for them,” he says.

In offering a slew of popular titles, the purpose of the mailing was not to renew readers but to open people up to new titles to benefit the participating publishers. So far the results have been very positive. “Our results as far as overall order response are meeting our projections and what we had hoped for to make it a worthwhile venture for both our publishers, for Komen and ourselves,” Macarthy reveals.

He plans to mail the package in June and December and, depending on results, may increase the frequency and volume incrementally. “We’re still working on what we might test going out, but each mailing will have some other tweak or some idea just to keep the package fresh,” he explains.

A big goal for this year is to increase online activity for this campaign at the site where prospects can place subscription orders as well. The URL was featured on some of the mailing segments, but Macarthy hopes to drive even more orders through the site. “We would love to get a bigger presence there and will make some efforts to have the website be more of a destination site in and of itself, independent of the mailings, but the mailings will also continue to tie to the website,” he concludes.

  • An Emotional Letter Loses: In its recent mailing, Read for the Cure tested two letters, one with a very emotional and personal approach and one with a more straightforward sales pitch. According to Jon Macarthy, consumer marketing director for Meredith Corp., the emotional letter lost. The emotional letter grabbed the reader from the beginning with, “Her eyes red from crying …” and detailed a woman’s familiarity with the pain of those suffering from cancer. Meanwhile, the winner began with this pitch: “You can help put an end to breast cancer by indulging in one of your favorite pastimes.” This just proves that every piece of the package needs to be tested.

(Originally published in Inside Direct Mail, April 2009)


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