Boost Versatility With Business Response Vehicles

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As the economy refuses to wake from a multiyear stupor, many marketers are placing a heavier emphasis on the versatility of their programs. Whether you seek sky-high response rates, crucial customer information or maximum marketplace awareness, a single marketing vehicle that can be tailored to provide all three will control costs without compromising effectiveness.

So this may be the ideal time to focus on the versatile one-two punch of magazine inserts and business response vehicles.

As the name suggests, a BRV is a more versatile version of a business reply card. While the term "business reply card" typically refers to a card that's designed to be detached and mailed, a "business response vehicle" lets users interact with the message in a number of ways.

That gives a BRV the rare distinction of providing value to both user and marketer. It can be designed to drive traffic to a Web site or offer a discount at a retail location. It lets users save important information for future use and allows marketers to collect valuable customer information for future marketing efforts.

Magazine insert programs are often scheduled for placement in a variety of publications, which can make the print production process complex. A typical production run could be in the millions, and each publication will have its own set of production specifications. The following tips aim to help you plan effective magazine insert programs and business response vehicles optimized for efficient production.

Design options. Design an insert based on its intended function. For example, an insert that will introduce a new product, complete with a tipped-on simulated product sample, will serve a much different purpose than a more standard four-page insert intended to raise awareness for a charitable cause.

Keep these elements in mind as you design your insert program:

· Paper. The weight and finish of the insert plays an important role in how the reader perceives it. Paper stock quality should mirror the message of the insert. An insert that includes a BRV requires a paper stock that's attractive and practical. For example, a recipe card may benefit from a thick, glossy stock that resists staining and highlights the vibrant colors of any food images. On the other hand, a reply device that asks users to write information on it may require an uncoated stock. Postal regulations need to be considered for reply cards that will enter the mailstream. The minimum paper thickness of a BRC is 7 pt. However, not all 7 pt. stocks are the same. There are paper weight and coating variations among 7 pt. stocks, so involve your print provider early in the design phase to ensure you select an appropriate stock.

· Foldouts. Foldout panels are a great way to provide additional information or build intrigue in your message. A perfed foldout lets readers remove a panel that may contain more than one BRV - a coupon and an accompanying recipe card, for example. With some designs, a gatefold can double the amount of space on your insert.

· Tip-ons. Why let customers just read about your products? Tip-ons such as fragrance packets, fabric swatches, plastic cards and other simulated product samples give inserts an attractive visual appeal and allow readers to interact with the insert.

· Finishing options. A range of finishing options enhances creativity. Scratch-off areas, foilstamping and embossing all can draw readers to special promotions or associate the perception of high value with a particular message or product. Here's an example of how we helped a paint company use scratch-off coatings. The insert included a BRV that contained a series of scratch-off spots that beckoned the reader to "pick your favorite paint color." Under each scratch-off was an offer for a discount on the paint that readers could redeem at a series of retail locations.

Tips for proper insert production. With so much variation in magazine production, it's important to plan inserts carefully. Here are tips to help make that process as efficient and worry-free as possible:

· Get all the specifications about each publication. Every publication has specifications for inserts. Before you design and print an insert, obtain all the production details about each publication. Inserts can be produced in a range of sizes. When the insert is going to bind into several publications with varying size specifications, extreme care is needed to ensure it fits the specifications of each publication. Each publication may have different preferences for how inserts bind.

· Verify that a reply card or reply envelope meets all postal service requirements. In addition to maintaining proper weight requirements, there are size restrictions. A reply card also needs the proper barcodes, indicia and address information to qualify for the lowest postal rates and allow processing on automated postal equipment.

· Let your insert production resource help you plan your next program. As the production run and number of publications rise, so does the complexity of an insert project. That's why it's important to find a reliable insert production resource with the expertise to guide you through the process. Look for an insert production resource that understands your creative intent and can offer suggestions to carry out that goal. The last thing you want is a resource that limits your creativity because it doesn't understand the many printing and finishing options available.

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