Creative generates average-response lift of 13 percent-plus: DMA

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The creative components of direct mail campaigns account for 25 percent of total lift and generate an average-response lift of more than 13 percent.

These were key findings from a recently released research report from the Direct Marketing Association's Research and Marketing Intelligence Unit called "Getting Creative with Direct Mail." This is the first research produced by the DMA to examine the key creative components of direct mail campaigns.

Inspired by the question that fuels the DMA's Response Rate Report --How can the most aggressive ROI be achieved? -- the DMA's report benchmarks overall usage and testing patterns, as well as effectiveness ratings from marketers themselves.

Providing data on which creative elements within each component is most effective, the report examines how marketers are using and testing each creative component, including envelopes, brochures, postcards, postage and incentives.

Some of the most revealing insights found in the report come from data obtained from "direct mail experts," the DMA said. These are high-quantity mailers who consistently test their campaigns. The report isolates this special group of respondents to allow the reader to take a look at mailers' preferred practices and techniques.

The report presents 11 specific categories of creative components and their relation to lifting response rates and testing. Among the report's key findings are the following:

· Outer Envelopes: More than two-thirds (69 percent) of respondents used the No. 10 envelope in the past 12 months, followed in popularity by the 6-inch by 9-inch envelope. The No. 10 envelope was also the most relied on, with 9.6 percent of respondents saying they used it in every campaign.

· Postage: Despite using bulk-rate indicia the most frequently, it ranked lower than First-Class Mail in terms of effectiveness.

· Letterhead: Respondents overall rated letterhead with a company's logo (4.01) the most effective variety, followed by personal stationery (3.59). Respondents who test letterhead gave letterhead with a company's logo a somewhat higher rating for effectiveness (4.33) than did non-testers (4.03).

·Reply Devices: The report found that the business reply envelope was the reply device most widely used as a control, followed closely by toll-free numbers.

·Involvement Devices: "Free gift offer" was the most widely used involvement device, used by 42.6 percent of respondents in the past 12 months.

·Incentives: As for perceived effectiveness, respondents overall rated free gifts (3.58) and discounts (3.48) as the most effective. In line with their usage of incentives, fundraisers gave a higher rating to free gifts (4.22) than the average respondent (3.58).

·Brochures: Respondents said that a direct mail piece with no brochure was more effective in lifting response than a brochure alone.

·Postcards: Nearly equal proportions of respondents felt a direct mail piece alone and postcard used as a supplement to a future direct mail piece were the most effective while stand-alone postcards were considered less effective.

·Self-Mailers: Self-mailers are commonly used, but lagged well behind traditional direct mail packages in effectiveness. Nearly six out of 10 respondents mailed self-mailers in the last 12 months, but only about one-third (36.8 percent) said they mailed self-mailers more often than direct mail packages.

The 275-page "Getting Creative with Direct Mail" includes more than 400 tables of information and can be purchased online at www.the-dma.org/bookstore.

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