Bagging the Brown Bag
Chicago-based hunger-relief organization America’s Second Harvest wasn’t working with a lagging control when it devised and tested this campaign. Quite the contrary — the organization’s brown lunch-bag appeal was doing “fabulously,” says Terri Shoemaker, senior account director with Merkle/Domain, the Seattle-based direct-marketing consultancy that teamed up with A2H in January 2002. It was generating a strong response and average gift, but it was expensive to mail.
A2H developed what it calls the grocery-voucher package: a 4-inch-by-9-inch outer with a picture of a grocery bag overflowing with fresh bread, vegetables and produce. In addition to the main element — an 8-inch-by-11-inch reply form with three detachable grocery vouchers (the asks) — the mailing includes an 8-inch-by-11-inch, double-sided letter and a BRE.
The message of the mailing, “Your gift multiplies 30 times to prevent food like this from going to waste …” is communicated on the outer.
The brown-bag mailing strongly featured images of children, while the grocery voucher places more emphasis on a broader demographic that includes the working poor and the elderly. When it was first tested against the brown-bag control, the average gift for the grocery-voucher mailing was high but the response rate was lower, Shoemaker says. Encouraged by the strong average gift and lower costs to get it out in the mail, A2H tweaked and tested everything from art, copy, offer and the number of coupons included in the mailing. Over time, the response rate for the grocery-voucher package increased. It performed well against the strong yet expensive brown-bag mailing, and it was mailed as a co-control for most of 2003.
Stuck in the pleasant predicament of having two successful mailings to choose from, A2H “analyzed the donors [it was] getting from both of those [packages to] see which ones on a longer term perform better, give a second gift, remain active, become better donors,” Shoemaker says. “And it turned out the people who were receiving the grocery voucher turned out to be better donors.”