Anatomy of a Control: Don't Mess With the Message
Everyone likes a premium. But as it turns out, if it doesn’t tie into an organization’s mission, donors won’t respond as well as if it did.
At least that’s how it turned out for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, which works to preserve the legacy of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., and educate the public about the impact of the Vietnam War.
As of 2003, the organization had been mailing the same holiday package — an oversized envelope whose bulk hinted at some type of premium inside — to active donors each November since at least 1998, according to Tim Youngbar, account executive for Crofton, Md.-based, full-service direct-marketing agency Creative Direct Response.
The 51⁄4-inch-by-73⁄4-inch package contains a 41⁄4-inch-by-6-inch holiday bounce-back card for donors to sign and return to VVMF along with a gift; five 41⁄2-inch-by-6-inch holiday note cards with an image of a wreath in front of the memorial, with envelopes; a 7-inch-by-14-inch combined letter and reply slip; and a reply envelope.
According to Youngbar, response to the mailing had fallen off and, two years ago, VVMF decided to test a new idea against the control — a mailing with an ornament premium rather than note cards.
“Most premiums can get stale, so we want to keep things fresh in the mail,” Youngbar says.
The ornament test was mailed in a slightly larger, 6-inch-by-81⁄4-inch outer envelope and included a 51⁄2-inch-by-7-inch reply; a BRE; a 7-inch-by-11-inch double-sided letter; and a 5-inch-by-8-inch bounce back with a tipped-on, silver ornament showing the image of three soldiers. The ornament was visible from the outer via a round poly window.
According to Marie Robinson, copy chief with Creative Direct Response, the 10,000-piece memorial-statue ornament test cost the same to produce as the note-card control package but pulled a higher response (6.9 percent to the control’s 5.71 percent), a higher dollar average ($14.32 to the control’s $13.81) and a higher net income ($5,838.19 to the control’s $3,909.71).