As marketing professionals we regularly keep check on things to be included in your direct mail content.
16 Merchandising Objectives
Merchandising direct mail differs from must other types of direct mail
in that it cannot function independently. The first essential of a good
merchandising programme, therefore, it is a good advertisement,
promotion piece, or publicity article-or a complete campaign to be
merchandised. Seldom can a merchandising campaign be successful if the
material to be merchandised is not of good quality.
Unfortunately, many advertisers look upon merchandising primarily as a way to try to correct faults in inferior promotions-and some have even simulated merchandising campaigns to try to make up for lost time when a competitor has beat them to the punch with a new promotion.
There are hundreds of possible objectives for merchandising by direct mail. Most of them, however, will fall within 16 basic categories:
- Reference Form - Much advertising and publicity
originally appears in highly transient form. This is particularly true
of radio and television commercials, motion picture advertising,
business films, and other audio- visual formats. There is little
opportunity to give such promotion thorough study or to pass it along to
others who are concerned. To a certain extent this is true of outdoor
advertising, point-of-purchase displays, transportation advertising, and
even newspapers--which are often read and discarded at a point far
removed from the point of future reference or more thorough study.
To extend the value and impact of such promotions, the messages are often translated into a format, which permits additional study and reference and then merchandised, by direct mail to appropriate audiences.
- To Enable Filing - Since it is difficult to get people
to tear pages from magazines or newspapers and file them on any
systematic basis - and such material seldom makes "good filing material"
- "merchandising for filing" is a logical answer.
When filing is desired, it is important to clearly establish the physical nature of the file and, if possible, to provide the basic "file" required. Such "files" may range from a simple filing folder to ring binders, filing sleeves, or special file boxes. It certainly is not necessary to use the original promotion format for filing purposes, but once a basic format for filing has been established, all material intended for the file should be tailored to this format. It is also important to keep reminding recipients of such, merchandising that the material is designed for the basic file and to include easy-to-follow instructions for filing. Periodic indexes can be very useful. When they are sent, it is a good idea to include a reply card on which recipient's can request items "missing" from their files.
- Amplify or Interpret - A magazine advertisement seldom
can tell the full story of a product or service or interpret it in terms
all audiences can relate to their specific interest. Through
merchandising, however, the basic advertisement can be extended through
interpretative material, additional illustrations, documentation,
comments on the copy, etc.
The most common theme, of course, is "what this promotion story means to you." In merchandising to a distribution organisation, this theme often becomes, "How this promotion can be applied to make more sales for you."
In some cases, the most important thing to be interpreted is the language of the original promotion piece. While this is obviously the situation in merchandising material to foreign language audiences, engineering talk may easily be a foreign language to a sales force or an executive audience.
- Reaching Supplemental Audiences - Even if a publication
itself reaches the majority of prospects, a high percentage of the
recipients will not even notice your advertising or publicity message.
Readership research reports indicate an average less than 20 percent of
the readers of a magazine note an individual ad; and it is important to
remember that these research studies usually include only those who have
spent some time reading the issue being researched and do not include
any who have not had the time to "get at" that issue.
An advertiser might find it necessary to concentrate his basic advertising in publications aimed at engineers. Yet, in many cases, the buying of his product will also involve approvals by top management and purchasing agents, who do not normally see the engineering magazines. In addition, these publications may easily not reach those in the distribution chain who will become involved in the eventual sale. The answer, of course, is to merchandise the engineer-slanted advertisements to these important supplemental audiences.
- Tailor to a Specific Market - Most companies finds it
economically impossible to tailor their advertising to the specific
interests of all potential markets for a product or service. In most
cases, there are varying interests because of geographical location,
industry practices, competitive situations, and other factors. Often,
the answer is to run a basic advertisement in horizontal publications
covering many different segments of the market and then merchandising
the basic advertisement with supplemental copy designed to appeal to
each segment of the market.
One very important division of a market can be customers vs. prospects. For example, to sell a new model to a customer already using the product concerned may easily require special copy dramatising reasons for making a change. If the market is composed primarily of prospects who have yet to purchase any model of the product, it is only logical for the basic copy to concentrate on arousing initial interest or selling against competitive products.
- Add Emphasis - Repeat advertisements in the same
publications in which they originally appeared are highly effective, but
even greater emphasis can be obtained when the message is separated
from the competition of many similar messages and merchandised by direct
mail to customers and prospects. Additional emphasis can also be
obtained by changing the original form of the ad. For example, it can be
printed on a better grade of paper, enlarged or reduced, have colour
added, points of special interest to each merchandising audience can be
- Combine Material - Complete merchandising kits are often
mailed to the distribution organisation, usually with samples or
pre-prints of all of the individual elements in the program. In such
kits it is important to explain not only the role of each element, but
how all of' the elements fit together to provide promotion impact.
- Link Ads Together - a single case history of product use
seldom delivers broad impact to a wide audience of prospects with
different characteristics. By linking together an entire series of case
histories, however, an advertiser can create an impression of having a
product or service with wide-spread application and acceptance.
- Provide Response Mechanisms - One of the handicaps of
many forms of advertising is that special effort is required on the part
of interested readers. Often interested prospects put off action and
just never get around to it. Direct mail merchandising can "save the
day" in such situations by retelling the original advertising story and
at the same time enclosing a handy business reply card which will bring
additional information or a call from a sales representative-or can even
serve as a mail order form.
- Personalise - Mass advertising, by its very nature, is
impersonal communication. Direct mail merchandising provides an
opportunity to convert messages for the masses into personal messages
for selected customers and prospects.
- Advertising Insurance - Most companies have a list of
key customers and prospects. But no matter how extensive a media
schedule may be, there is almost sure to be a sizeable portion of this
key-customer-and-prospect audience which will "miss" any particular
advertising message. Direct mail merchandising to this key list provides
- Add Drama - The most common method for adding drama is
to attach some dimensional object to a reprint. The fact the "original"
is known to have appeared in a different form achieves impact in itself.
For example, one advertiser used pages in advertising trade
publications with a black-and- white illustration showing a pair of dice
with pennies for the "spots." For merchandising purposes, the ad was
reprinted on glossy cover stock and then seven shiny new pennies were
glued atop the original black-and-white illustration.
- Bring up to Date -Sometimes an advertisement is outdated
before it gets into print. This may not be of major importance to the
broad audience to which it is aimed, but can be highly important to
special audiences such as company salesmen, key buyers, and others.
In some cases, an advertisement can be given additional impact by merchandising, which features an updating theme.
One advertiser, for example, was promoting the number of outlets for his product. After his ad had been prepared for a list of trade magazines, two important new outlets were added. The entire theme received additional impact when the advertiser merchandised the original ad with an accompanying note explaining how the story had become outdated even before the ad appeared in print.
- Correct Faults - While correcting faults in advertising
programs should not be the primary aim of a direct mail merchandising
program, it is an immediately available tool when emergencies arise. One
company, for example, prepared an insert for a business publication and
then, at the last minute, discovered it did not meet postal regulations
for second-class rather than scrap the expensive inserts, the
advertiser chose to run a conventional ad in the magazine describing the
"banned" insert and then arranged with the publication to have the
inserts addressed for third-class mailing to the entire circulation
More common, however, is the use of direct mail merchandising to correct typographical errors, misleading statements, or to explain other faults in the original advertising.
- Make Up for Lost Time - When competitors have beat an
advertiser to the punch on some new development, direct mail
merchandising can be used to regain the lead. Flexibility in timing
gives a definite advantage to direct mail. It isn't only action by
competitors, which can make this merchandising objective important,
however. Changing market conditions can also be a factor. One
advertiser, for example, was engaged in a long-range programme to create
demand for a line of air conditioners when a sudden, unseasonal heat
wave hit choice market areas. To get dealers to stock up quickly, a
special direct mail merchandising program was quickly instituted.
- Substitute for a ''missing" Advertising Program - One of
the most unusual direct mail campaigns of recent years was a simulated
merchandising programme used by an industrial thread manufacturer. Even
though the budget did not allow for an extensive publication advertising
program, the company created the impression of being a large-scale
advertiser by including simulated full-page magazine reprints with its
newsletter mailed monthly to 2,500 carefully selected key prospects.
Actually, the impressive "ads" made only one appearance-as enclosures
with the newsletters.
While this is a unique example, direct mail merchandising is often called into play to plug some gap in an advertising program. Sometimes it is to make up for an ad, which missed the edition for which it was intended, or to fill in important market segments which were overlooked in media planning.
Copyright Dick Hodgson
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Valassis Communications Inc., a sales promotion company that offers coupons primarily through newspaper inserts, has joined forces with competitor Advo Inc. to distribute coupons through direct mail in seven markets around the country. The move intrigues analysts, who say the effort holds promise for both companies.