Keeping Creative Alive for Continuity Offers
by Hallie Mummert
In continuity marketing, the end game is the take rate, or how many shipments you can get a customer to keep and pay for. The beginning of this tenuous match, however, is all about getting the product in the customer's hands.
Positioning of the offer becomes a delicate matter. Since the initial direct mail package is akin to the first step in a lead generation campaign, how much or how little you tell the prospect about the offer can make the difference. Additionally, the words you use to describe that offer can mean the difference between a prospective customer and a trashed mailing.
When comparing direct mail campaigns from the last decade, an interesting pattern emerges in relation to offer and position. The development of a more savvy consumer along with new sales and distribution models have made an impact on how continuity is sold today.
To keep up with the times, direct marketers who want to sell their products via a continuity model have updated their long-term controls. The areas of greatest importance have been negative option, interactivity and new reply channels.
Turning a Negative Into a Positive
Two factors have combined forces to bring about a change in the way many continuity and club marketers do business: the Internet and a mature market. Companies compete with so many different channels these days, and customers have a plethora of options for almost any purchase they want to make.
Over the years, consumers became disgruntled with negative option clubs for books and music that require them to return rejection cards to stop automatic shipments and invoices for unwanted products. For these reasons, both Book-of-the-Month and Columbia House have launched positive-option clubs in the last three years.
Columbia House's most recent mailing for its positive-option club, called Play, harkens back to efforts from the early 1990s. The 4˝ x 81⁄2˝ envelope package bears strong resemblance to its forebears with a personalized, plastic membership card peeking through the address window and the ubiquitous stampsheets for selecting free CDs. The major difference is in the offer: Now it's 12 CDs for a penny plus a $4.99 enrollment fee compared to eight CDs for free, and the copy pushes hassle-free membership compared to the earlier strategy of playing up the free music.