How Leading Brands Develop Breakthrough Creative -- and How You Can Profit
On the way to a recent conference, I noticed the digital billboards in the airport -- the kind that shifts messages every 30 to 60 seconds. The overhead screen launched a stream of messages as throngs of passengers on cell phones rushed past.
Jumping into a cab, I noticed that the digital portal on the back seat offered sports scores and the latest news. At the hotel, I was greeted with a sign-in kiosk as an alternative to the front desk, which allowed me to upgrade my room. And as I dashed into the elevator, a major network show was playing on a screen above the doors.
Once in the hotel room, there was more messaging: from the hotel channel, cable stations and even on the pizza box delivered to the room.
Welcome to the new consumer environment.
What’s significant is that the same people who are filtering, sorting, eliminating, accepting and processing all these messages also are your prospects and donors. And to get the attention of the time starved and over stimulated, you need fresh strategies and a creative approach that differentiate your organization from the rest of the pack.
A radical evolution in technology and marketing is changing the way we communicate creatively with prospects and donors. And there’s a big opportunity for nonprofits to not only leverage this new landscape, but also thrive in it.
The evolution is being driven by a number of significant trends:
COMMUNICATIONS VOLUMES ARE INCREASING
Ask any consumer about the volume of communications he receives, and he’ll tell you it’s at an all-time high. Overflowing mailboxes, incoming e-mails, phone calls and mobile texting, just to name a few. The average consumer is exposed to more than 200 marketing messages a day. And that’s the conservative estimate.
THERE ARE NEW WAYS OF COMMUNICATING
From digital taxi-tops and streaming video to cell phone downloads, today’s consumer is confronted with a more extensive “message network” across virtually every point of contact.
TIME DEMANDS ARE INCREASING EXPONENTIALLY
We live in a “Webified” world. Instant e-mailing has become the new standard for delivery. And culturally, the expectation is that e-mails and phone calls will be returned in a matter of minutes and hours versus days.
THE CONSUMER IS IN CONTROL
Today’s consumer is a new breed. From e-mails to direct mail, they’ve honed their skills of tossing, filtering and editing what they see, read and touch. Just look at the new filtering devices -- digital video recorders, commercial-free satellite radio and Do Not Call/Mail registries top the list. Online screening through opt-ins, the delete button and spam eliminator has become very popular. For today’s consumer, it’s a new marketing world.
NEW CREATIVE STRATEGIES
It’s time to re-think creative. Despite the new communications environment, there are enormous opportunities for charities to evolve their creative approaches to the next level: find new ways of communicating, increase relevance, and look at ways donors and prospects want to interact with your organization.
What’s needed are proven approaches that can help you deliver relevant, targeted and timely messages. There are a number of success stories from the commercial side that are very pertinent to our challenges in the nonprofit world.
BE TRUE TO YOUR BRAND
When Dunkin’ Donuts started to lose market share to Starbucks and Krispy Kreme, it needed new strategies and a fresh creative approach. Dunkin’ Donuts could have decided to go after the same customers that Starbucks pursued. However, the company chose to look at its own core customers and assess the characteristics and buying behavior of Dunkin’ Donuts loyalists in an effort to find out how they were unique.
Dunkin’ Donuts realized that its customers didn’t view it as a destination -- those who frequent its locations want to zip in, place an order and zip out. This profile didn’t fit the Starbucks customers, who typically view Starbucks as a place to lounge, relax and socialize.
CONSISTENTLY ASSESS YOUR AUDIENCE
By understanding its core customer, Dunkin’ Donuts was able to more effectively target prospects in relevant geographies. The company then aligned the creative messaging with its brand. What resulted was a specific creative campaign that resonated with its core audience.
For nonprofits, start with an understanding of your core donors so that you can assess what they like about you most. Then apply this learning when you communicate with prospects and donors. Understanding what resonates with your best supporters also will help you differentiate your brand from other organizations.
USE RATIONAL AND EMOTIONAL MESSAGING
PLAN USA recently tested a direct-mail package that was similar to its control -- with one exception. A reference to a child praying for help was eliminated. By taking out one key phrase, PLAN USA eliminated the emotional messaging reflected in the control package. That one simple change impacted results in a meaningful way.
For each charity, there’s both a rational and emotional component that needs to be present in all communications. Finding a balance between these two elements is key. Eliminate or reduce one component and you risk dramatic shifts in response rates, average gift size and repeat gifts.
TAILOR CREATIVE AND CORE SEGMENTS
Sometimes, testing tailored messages for key segments of donors and prospects can yield big results. On the commercial side, Dell creates a number of catalog versions that are delivered to different groups of customers. This change in creative messaging has proven effective in generating greater results for the organization.
But there’s a fundamental difference in today’s creative versioning strategies. There’s a new tool in the toolkit.
Once you determine the core differences between your donor segments or variations among prospects you are targeting, consider launching “trial balloons” through e-mail. Unlike the longer cycle of direct mail, smart deployment of version testing online can yield big results, and often allows you to gauge results quickly. You also can take the “winning messages” that were tested online and incorporate them into future direct-mail packages.
DEPLOY A MULTI-CHANNEL STRATEGY
Given all the new ways of communicating with customers, it’s important to think about how to get your message filtered and delivered. Here’s where a solid multi-channel approach can help significantly boost donor and prospect results.
It’s important to test fresh combinations of media. Opt-in donors who give through the mail generate higher response rates and average gifts. They also have a greater lifetime value. Try using e-mail and direct-mail combinations to engage both prospects and donors. Use online messages to highlight and reinforce the mail package that is on the way to donors’ mailboxes. Test multiple waves of direct mail in combination with dimensional packages or print advertising.
Beyond testing media combinations, look at ways to reinforce messaging from all the communications that go out to your prospects and donors. Your Web site, e-mails, direct-mail packages and other marketing vehicles all should align to reflect your brand, your differentiated positioning in the marketplace and your calls to action.
ACKNOWLEDGE DONOR AND PROSPECT PREFERENCES
It’s also important to ask the donors and prospects what communications they would like to receive, and through what media. JC Penney developed e-mail versions for customers who like fashion vs. those who are interested in home decorating. The result? Because the e-mails were targeted and tailored, customers requested more communications with the company -- increasing revenues and the number of customers.
It’s not surprising that many prospects who have the potential to be loyal donors will actually sign up for or request additional communications.
Aggressively testing these new approaches -- smart branding, development of compelling messaging, new media combinations and multi-channel deployment -- will be keys to success.