Food Lists Serve Up Holiday Testing Opportunities

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Although food lists are often disregarded by out-of-category mailers, they represent opportunities for boosting holiday circulation and reaching bona fide mail-order gift givers.


"A food list? That's not going to work for me," is a typical non-food mailer's reaction when such a list is recommended, according to Wendy Udell, senior account executive at Mokrynski & Associates Inc., Hackensack, NJ.


Regardless, several list managers agree that there are arguments to be made in favor of testing food files for holiday offers. The two most compelling arguments are that the holiday season is the biggest, or only, mailing season for many food mailers, and that the files' buyers are often making purchases as gifts.


Many food mailers only mail once per year for the fall/holiday season, said Sheryl Benjamin, vice president of list management at Direct Media Inc., Greenwich, CT. Holiday buyers make up these entire files.


While some food offers mail year-round, they see their counts go up for the holiday season, said Suzanne O'Rourke, senior account manager at American List Counsel, Princeton, NJ. "Holiday names are the best names," she added.


Though gift givers may not be selectable on all food lists, the files tend to be made up of faithful gift buyers, O'Rourke said.


"The hotlines tend to be generated in the second half of the year due to a lot of gift giving. From a recency standpoint and testing standpoint, we're in the best time of the year from right now forward," said Andy Ostroy, managing partner at ALC of New York LLC.


Convincing mailers to test food files is not a simple task. There are several things that list managers should point out.


"It's not just that the people on the file are buying food; they're buying food as gifts, so it makes sense that other types of gift offers would appeal to them," Udell said.


The gift-giver mind-set that many food buyers have is important for certain mailers, Ostroy said.


"People giving gifts are obviously thinking about people besides themselves, making the files effective for other gift offers and fundraising offers," he added.


A mailer might argue that food lists have limited rollout potential due to their seasonality. That may be true, but Udell pointed out, "Even if a mailer can only take a file once a year, it's more names than they would have had without using it at all."


Since pricing is always an issue, most food mailers are willing to give price breaks to out-of-category mailers at least as a test incentive, according to Udell.


Several have special fundraising and publishing rates on their data cards, O'Rourke said.


Selects differ from file to file, but some effective selections include gift buyers, multibuyers and demographic selects.


Food files on the market through Mokrynski include Hershey's Gift Catalog of chocolate products; the Honey Baked Ham Catalog of hams, turkeys, and various side dishes and desserts; Petrossian Paris, which carries fine caviar, smoked delicacies and pates; and Wolferman's, which features English muffins, spreads and preserves.


American List Counsel represents the Harry and David file, which has more than 1.5 million last-12-month buyers of fruits, chocolates, cakes and other specialty food items. It also manages the Collin Street Bakery file of cake buyers and the Cryer Creek Kitchens file of cake, pie and cookie buyers.


Direct Media manages the Omaha Steaks file of more than 330,000 last-12-month buyers of steak, poultry and seafood. Other files it handles are Wisconsin Cheeseman Catalog of cheese, meat and dessert items; the Fairytale Brownies file of premium-quality brownie buyers; and the Burgers' Smokehouse file of smoked and cured meats.


ALC of New York has Balducci's file of gourmet food buyers and the Popcorn Factory Catalog list of popcorn tins and gift baskets.
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