Old direct mail tricks never die

November 15th, 2012   •   no comments   

I received this in the mail yesterday from Toronto’s world-renowned Baycrest to support “research and innovation in brain health and aging.”

There’s a shiny nickel right there on the order form, showing through the window of the outer envelope. As a sign of your support, please return this nickel with your donation. The order form has the holiday season requisite return address and gift seals I can use on my letters to family and friends.

I understand this type of package may also have been used recently by Sunnybrook Foundation and UNICEF Canada. Its no surprise; involvement devices like this still work in direct mail, especially with a baby boomer audience who still values receiving letter mail.

Inevitably I get asked by students of my Direct Marketing class at the Canadian Marketing Association, or by clients does that Publisher Clearing House gimmick still work?

Yup, it still works! Here’s why:

  • People don’t throw away money, no matter how little
  • If you give something to someone for free, such as the nickel and the holiday address labels, they feel obliged  —  even just a little  —  to reciprocate
  • To get at the nickel in this direct mail package you have to open it up
  • When you open it you see the peel-off address labels on the order form
  • Now that you’ve the contents, including the letter, you’re seeing everything…and you have to deal with it physically: Maybe you remove the nickel; maybe you perf off the labels. You need both hands.
  • The more you interact with the contents, the greater the chance you’ll see something that may draw you in further to the Baycrest story. Maybe you’ll read about Lea Garvin’s older sister, Katherine, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, or maybe you’ll read that Baycrest was ranked “in the top five per cent of more than 1,000 health care organizations across Canada.”
  • Whatever draws you in, even for a second or two, has the chance to engage you further, warm you up for the “ask” or, at the very least, increase your awareness of Baycrest
Do you need to use a nickel? No. But you definitely need something on or showing through the envelope to get people to open it. That’s the purpose of the envelope: to get people inside. You could stick a $100 bill inside (as a bribe to encourage response), but if the recipient doesn’t open it…


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