Going (Less) Wild
In fall 2002, the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, which each year sees 1.4 million visitors pass through its gates and mails close to a million direct-mail appeals, felt the need for a direct-mail face lift.
The membership appeal the zoo had been mailing was a two-color effort, with a photo on the carrier of a little girl giggling as a chimpanzee looks back at her through a window.
“Their control was not in line with what we’d seen with other response rates for zoos across the country,” according to Jessica Harrington, vice president of direct response at Schultz & Williams Inc., the creative services firm the zoo hired to orchestrate its direct-mail redo. “We work with a lot of zoos, in addition to other nonprofits, and it just wasn’t hitting the benchmarks that we’d established for our other clients.”
Schultz & Williams put Creative Director Laura Esposito on the job. In addition to sub-par response rates, the control the zoo was using when Esposito took the reins was “very dated looking.”
“[It was] kind of jumbled, and there were a lot of pieces that were only printed on one side,” she says.
Enlisting new lists
Traditionally, the L.A. Zoo primarily had mailed to donors on conservation and California state parks lists, and on lists for animal supporters and nature lovers.
Compelled by drooping response to the zoo’s mailings and skeptical of being able to successfully convert donors to members, Schultz & Williams enacted a list change, targeting families with children under age 12, specifically those who buy through the mail.
The zoo focused on lists for catalogs for baby and toddler merchandise and maternity wear, and magazines such as Parents, Parenting and Your Big Backyard. Additionally, it exchanged lists with other local attractions such as the California Science Center and the city’s aquarium.