Design Firm Pleased With Response Despite Timing of Drop

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ReflexBlue Design has received encouraging early results from a direct mail campaign despite dropping 25 percent of it on Sept. 10, a day before the terrorist attacks.


The design and print production services firm first mailed 250 of the magazine-style piece at the end of August. A drop of the same size followed on Sept. 10. The tragic events of Sept. 11 prompted the company to push back another mailing of 500 pieces from Sept. 14 to Sept. 21.


Sent to catalogers, publishing houses and travel industry firms, the less-than-favorable circumstances still produced a response rate of 1.5 percent for the 500 pieces mailed in August and Sept. 10, said Kathlynn Henthorne, marketing director at ReflexBlue Design, Sante Fe, NM. She did not know how many responses came from each mailing.


"The timing of the [Sept. 10] mailing was very unfortunate, but at the same time, we are really happy with the response we've seen," she said. "We're hoping to get a response rate of anywhere from 2 percent to 5 percent once we are able to judge the entire campaign."


About 20 of the Sept. 10 mailings went to the financial district in lower Manhattan, including companies in the World Trade Center.


"We've instructed our sales people not to put any calls into the New York or Washington, D.C., areas because we want to give everyone who has been affected directly or indirectly a period to adjust," Henthorne said.


Henthorne said the magazine's blend of marketing content and lifestyle articles likely aided the above-average response because people during a time of crisis can be more receptive to entertainment than hard marketing pitches. She added that the current response rate would have probably been lower if her firm had not decided to delay the last mailing.


"Mailing on Sept. 14 would've been insane," she said. "When it came to the next week, we decided to go ahead because we felt that people just needed to get on with their business. And it was important for us to follow-up the earlier efforts so we could get our message out as people plan their marketing budgets for the end of the fiscal year."


ReflexBlue, which farms out its clients' print jobs, chose long-standing partner Cottonwood Printing, Albuquerque, NM, to print the promotional magazine.


The 24-page book was mostly printed in four colors on 70-pound Sequoia gloss-coated paper with the front cover getting five-color treatment on 100-pound stock. The magazine cost $7,255 in total production, including postage and list charges from Atlanta-based broker The List.


"Our clients shouldn't expect to pay anything close to that in per-unit cost, though," Henthorne said, noting that her firm decided to go with a rather lavish campaign.


ReflexBlue used freelance photographers and writers to help lower production costs. Henthorne said the photograph and copy on the front of the book and various segments of copy within it should convey the message that high-quality, low-cost design work can be found in New Mexico.


The cover contains a photograph of a lone wooden chair sitting on a stretch of desert grass just below some canyon-laden area of New Mexico's Abiquiu range. Underneath the Reflex masthead reads, "Free Thinking Design From The Southwest."


A business reply card encouraged recipients to use the card to request an agent to call them immediately or in six months due to pending marketing plans. The cards also encourage recipients to give ReflexBlue's phone representatives a call or visit its Web site that was redesigned for the campaign.


Henthorne said that her 3-year-old firm, which had never done a direct mail piece as extensive as the magazine, had been contacted via phone by large retailers Target and Nordstrom in response to the campaign. Still, she said, it would be at least a year before ReflexBlue did another magazine because it likes to keep big marketing projects rare.


"You have to remember that, while we do offer inhouse design and outsourced printing service, we aren't a publisher," Henthorne said.


Meanwhile, ReflexBlue typically assigns about 50 percent of its jobs to Cottonwood and other local printers while contracting with national printers like RR Donnelley & Sons and Quebecor for the other half.


"Working with both local and national printers allows us to get the best prices and best printers for our customers," Henthorne said. "That was part of our message for the magazine."


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