By John Greathouse (@johngreathouse)
©
John Greathouse is an investor and serial entrepreneur. He also teaches entrepreneurship at University of California at Santa Barbara.

What would you do if you opened a UPS envelope and there was nothing inside?

Friends of mine, who have asked to remain anonymous, as they don’t want to alert their competitors to the success of their sales campaign, inadvertently answered this question a few years ago when they accidentally mailed several hundred empty UPS envelopes.

UPS envelopes don’t have the cachet they had, say, in the 1970s. Even so, nearly everyone still opens them, unlike most of the junk mail we receive.

My friends launched a marketing campaign in which they were reaching out to owners of a certain type of lease, in order to offer them more attractive terms. These lease holders were notoriously difficult to reach.

The company intended to send them marketing material in a UPS envelope, with their 1-800 number printed on the return address label. But they mistakenly sent out those empty envelopes.

To the company’s surprise, their phones started to ring. The prospects wanted to know: “What were you trying to send me?” The company’s executives soon realized their accidental tactic worked, and the stealth campaign became its core direct-mailing strategy.

Let me stop here with a word of caution. The company’s decision to make this its core marketing strategy has obvious ethical, and potentially legal, implications that every venture should consider before initiating a similar campaign. All marketing tactics a company deploys should be consistent with its values and be in accordance with your local laws, as well as those of the recipients.

Having said that, my friends felt that this campaign didn’t cross their line because the company clearly indicated who they were from the initial envelope’s return address, as well as in the follow-on letters, which were upon company letterhead. A quick Google search would inform a recipient of the company’s business model and it would not take a huge leap to determine why they might be reaching out.

What’s more, it clearly worked: Over a multiyear period, the response rate of the empty envelopes averaged 15%.

When prospects called, the person answering the phone asked, “Are you one of our partners?” Prospects would explain that they were not partners, and that the envelope was empty. But the conversations had begun, and they would quickly segue into discussions of a potential partnership.

Recipients of the empty envelope who did not call the company were sent a follow-up letter, in a standard envelope and on company stationery saying, “We understand that you might have received an empty envelope from us. Please reach out to discuss the intent of our package.” The letter generated an additional 20% response rate.

A third letter was sent to the remaining nonrespondents, in a normal envelope, indicating, “We understand that we sent you an empty UPS envelope. We have tried to contact you, but without success. This is our last attempt to reach out and inform you of the intent of our package.” This final letter resulted in an additional 9% response rate.

Over the course of the campaign, the company mailed over 15,000 empty UPS envelopes. The three letters resulted in a combined 38.12% response rate. In one year, over half of all of the company’s new bookings were generated by the stealth campaign.

To put this in perspective, a 2015 report by the Direct Marketing Association indicates that the typical direct-mail prospecting campaign motivates 1% of the recipients to take action. Campaigns that oversize envelopes, similar to the initial stealth campaign UPS envelope, generally result in a 5% response rate.

If you assumed these industry standard response rates, the same three mailings, with a letter in the initial oversize envelope, would have likely caused about 1,034 people to call the company. In contrast, the empty envelope and subsequent mysterious follow-up letters motivated 5,718 people to pick up the phone.

What explains the phenomenal response? Without realizing it, the company tapped into two psychological phenomena, which academics have named after the respective researchers, Bluma Zeigarnik and Maria Ovsiankina.

The Zeigarnik Effect is the inclination to recall uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than those that are completed. Similarly, the Ovsiankina Effect describes the tendency for people to continue to think about an uncompleted, interrupted task until it is resolved.

There are lessons here for all companies, large and small. The human traits these researchers  identified drive our love of cliffhangers, mysteries and other narratives that hold us in suspense. Humans have a compulsion to finish the unfinished, thereby strengthening a marketer’s call to action.

If a company can harness these aspects of human nature with its marketing campaigns, the results can be powerful. Getting people to remember the company’s call to action and having it recur in its thoughts until it is completed is marketing nirvana.

The empty envelopes were a mystery. The follow-up letters underscored the enigmatic nature of the initial mailing, causing even more people to respond than the initial, empty envelope.

As this marketing campaign makes clear, the lines between mystery and fraudulent inducement can be narrow. Thus, don’t trick your prospects into responding. Rather, intrigue them.

CLARIFICATION: This article has been updated to include additional thoughts from the writer about the ethical implications of the marketing campaign. (September 21, 2017)

McCann CEO: Direct Mail’s Moment Has Come Again

by Jan Wouters on 1 april 2016

The opening of McCann CEO Harris Diamond’s remarks to members of the mailing industry at the National Postal Forum seemed to presage a downer of a talk. He put up a slide of a quote that read, “It’s a regrettable fact there is today a great waste in this brand of advertising which, when well done, is so effective.” The quote, referring to catalogs, was pulled from a McCann brochure—from 1915.

There exists an “expanded territory” for direct mail, Diamond said, “something we haven’t seen in years.” But the point he wished to make with the quote was that demands for more effectiveness from direct mail—hardly the cheapest way to engage with customers—was not something new, just something more complicated.

“Today’s media events are more complex than they were 100 years ago. There are many more hurdles due to fragmentation,” he told the Nashville gathering. “But in a world in which people are endlessly bombarded with electronic messages, direct mail is now the most welcome house guest.”

As head of the Postal Service’s agency of record, Diamond gets paid to push the positives of mail. But he came armed with research attesting to direct mail’s enduring marketing value. A McCann study, he said, found that the average American spends 25 minutes a day with mail, something he has dubbed “The Mail Moment.”

“You come home from work, the mail in one hand, the cell phone in your pocket, and you sit down to go through the mail. It’s an important moment in people’s lives and one that presents great marketing opportunities,” Diamond said. “McCann has identified a balance between high-tech and high-touch. Vinyl record sales are up, postcards are popular again, companies are marketing portable printers to hook to your cell phones. There’s hardly a trend that doesn’t work to mail’s advantage.”

The man who watches over a $10 billion a year in marketing spend then shared five creative principles McCann follows for effective marketing campaigns:

1. Go where customers are. Try to see the world as customers see it and don’t be bound by traditional approaches. “Look at Pope Francis. He went out in street clothes at night to spend time with the homeless, took selfies with young people in crowds,” Diamond said by way of example. “Now he wasn’t marketing, we know he was sincere, but these acts served to make sure the changes he was making were understood.”

2. Maximize your media’s opportunities to engage with consumers. Explore the many ways mail can engage with consumers that digital means can’t. Diamond pointed to the Australian Air Force and a recruitment mailer it sent to engineering students. It was a box that consisted of the parts of a radio, but no assembly instructions. Future engineers who put it together anyway, turned it on, and tuned in to a dedicated station were offered commissions in the Air Force.

3. Use new technologies to enhance engagement and brand value. Diamond was bullish on the prospects for mail and augmented reality. “It’s a case of digital and paper working together to enhance the experience,” he said.

4. It’s all about reinventing the medium. “Technology gives us so many opportunities to reach people, to require them to take action. The time people spend in the mail moment is an enormous opportunity to use technology creatively.”

5. Focus on your relationship with consumers in a digital age. There are limits to how much information consumers want to give marketers. “When we send material to people, we have to know they’re interested in it,” Diamond said. “What the U.S. Postal Service is doing [with data] is really, really going to increase the ability reach people in the ways they want to be reached.”

The agency honcho insisted that multiplatform marketing without direct mail is like a day without, well…the mail moment. “From what we’re seeing at McCann, marketers are recognizing and taking advantage of how multifaceted mail really is.”

The opening of McCann CEO Harris Diamond’s remarks to members of the mailing industry at the National Postal Forum seemed to presage a downer of a talk. He put up a slide of a quote that read, “It’s a regrettable fact there is today a great waste in this brand of advertising which, when well done, is so effective.” The quote, referring to catalogs, was pulled from a McCann brochure—from 1915.

There exists an “expanded territory” for direct mail, Diamond said, “something we haven’t seen in years.” But the point he wished to make with the quote was that demands for more effectiveness from direct mail—hardly the cheapest way to engage with customers—was not something new, just something more complicated.

“Today’s media events are more complex than they were 100 years ago. There are many more hurdles due to fragmentation,” he told the Nashville gathering. “But in a world in which people are endlessly bombarded with electronic messages, direct mail is now the most welcome house guest.”

As head of the Postal Service’s agency of record, Diamond gets paid to push the positives of mail. But he came armed with research attesting to direct mail’s enduring marketing value. A McCann study, he said, found that the average American spends 25 minutes a day with mail, something he has dubbed “The Mail Moment.”

“You come home from work, the mail in one hand, the cell phone in your pocket, and you sit down to go through the mail. It’s an important moment in people’s lives and one that presents great marketing opportunities,” Diamond said. “McCann has identified a balance between high-tech and high-touch. Vinyl record sales are up, postcards are popular again, companies are marketing portable printers to hook to your cell phones. There’s hardly a trend that doesn’t work to mail’s advantage.”

The man who watches over a $10 billion a year in marketing spend then shared five creative principles McCann follows for effective marketing campaigns:

1. Go where customers are. Try to see the world as customers see it and don’t be bound by traditional approaches. “Look at Pope Francis. He went out in street clothes at night to spend time with the homeless, took selfies with young people in crowds,” Diamond said by way of example. “Now he wasn’t marketing, we know he was sincere, but these acts served to make sure the changes he was making were understood.”

2. Maximize your media’s opportunities to engage with consumers. Explore the many ways mail can engage with consumers that digital means can’t. Diamond pointed to the Australian Air Force and a recruitment mailer it sent to engineering students. It was a box that consisted of the parts of a radio, but no assembly instructions. Future engineers who put it together anyway, turned it on, and tuned in to a dedicated station were offered commissions in the Air Force.

3. Use new technologies to enhance engagement and brand value. Diamond was bullish on the prospects for mail and augmented reality. “It’s a case of digital and paper working together to enhance the experience,” he said.

4. It’s all about reinventing the medium. “Technology gives us so many opportunities to reach people, to require them to take action. The time people spend in the mail moment is an enormous opportunity to use technology creatively.”

5. Focus on your relationship with consumers in a digital age. There are limits to how much information consumers want to give marketers. “When we send material to people, we have to know they’re interested in it,” Diamond said. “What the U.S. Postal Service is doing [with data] is really, really going to increase the ability reach people in the ways they want to be reached.”

The agency honcho insisted that multiplatform marketing without direct mail is like a day without, well…the mail moment. “From what we’re seeing at McCann, marketers are recognizing and taking advantage of how multifaceted mail really is.”

Boter bij de vis

by Jan Wouters on 1 april 2015

Grafici

Interresant artikel over verloning van freelancers (grafici in dit geval):

Het Entrepot uit Brugge, open huis voor jong talent, krijgt jaarlijks zo’n 1,3 miljoen kapitaalsubsidies. Men lanceerden er een ontwerpwedstrijd waarbij je 1.000 euro kunt verdienen. Hiervoor graag een logo én volledige stijlgids. Overdracht van de auteursrechten inbegrepen. Dat laatste alleen al kost je marktconform een veelvoud van de prijs die daar betaald wordt. Maar omdat het goed staat in je portfolio, moet je er maar mee leven. En kom, als jong talent moet je toch al blij zijn dat je kunt werken?