Insert Media: Alone and With Other Channels

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The days of building brand recognition solely from a few media sources are just a fading memory. Building recognition now depends on catching people in the course of their daily events. If a prospective customer gets the same ad message during the course of his daily activities, that message has a chance to get through. The only way to reach someone engaged in various activities is by using a coordinated group of marketing channels.

Shotgun branding is getting as old as stories of the Wild West. Now marketing has to be accountable and scalable, because spending a large amount of money in one mass medium can be gambling, at best, and business suicide at worst. Dell, Vonage and Geico have been masters at using many channels to deliver a consistent marketing message.

Insert media, as a marketing channel, is a new frontier for some established companies. Every postal rate increase gives the channel a popularity boost for obvious reasons. With another increase likely on the horizon, another wave of newcomers looks to test insert media before the rate increase is felt fully.

Furthermore, insert media programs have category exclusivity. Smart marketers are rushing to test and lock up circulation in the best opportunities before their competition can.

Having fine-tuned approaches with other media channels can reduce the risk in starting insert media testing. The marketing message may have continuity with other advertising venues, but insert media has considerations unique to the channel.

Offer is king! No other component makes or breaks response. The offer is the foundation, more so than in any other channel. The main reason is that an insert must stand alone. Other media have content as the draw. An ad in a magazine has more exposure time because the reader is looking at something else on that page. Television and radio "ad avoidance" is usually impractical. But inserts need to have an immediate hook. If an insert cannot capture the recipient's interest in a split second, the opportunity is gone. A simple, clear offer that poses the least risk is key in moving the prospect to the next sales step.

Testing requires patience. The first insert media test will take time to develop. With education, creative development, program choices and distribution, weeks can pass. After that, results need to be captured and analyzed, which can take a few months. This phase can be discouraging for a new advertiser. However, once the second phase starts to move, the process accelerates. But there is no shortcut for this process.

A realistic look at testing ROI. Insert media is truly effective in large circulation quantities. Relative costs, like insertion, print and insert freight, will drop with commitment to larger quantities. Since it is rare that a test produces a positive ROI, an advertiser needs to examine test results with these lower costs in mind.

Establish a goal for the channel. Insert media is mainly a channel for acquisition, not sales. Though some direct marketers sell a "one-shot" type of offer, most are willing to break even or take a slight loss on customer acquisition. With targeted insert programs, the lifetime value of customers obtained through insert media should be no different than those gained from other channels.

Leverage the awareness from other channels. All possible risks should be mitigated before the first insert media test. Programs that have the same affinity as the targeted prospect should top the test list. But looking at programs that may parallel other channel efforts could lead to discoveries and to the likelihood that the channels will reinforce one another.

Duplication is not a dirty word. Traditionally, duplicating your message to the same prospects is not always desired in advertising because the same dollars are going into sending a message to the same prospects. However, from a direct marketing perspective - where response rules - results may support duplication. Some direct mail studies have shown that multiple mailings to the same prospects have a better aggregate response than if the same quantity of mail were sent to different prospects.

An insert needs to be designed for flexibility of presentation. A loose insert has no presentation control. Therefore, an insert needs to be designed so that it has the same impact regardless of which side is viewed first. With insert design, there won't be a back and front. Instead, there should be an "offer A" side and "offer B" side. The offer and call to action items should be consistent on both sides, but the design and any support copy can vary.

Find a good insert broker. Work with an insert broker who knows the business inside and out. Brokers have the pulse of industry happenings and have established relationships with managers and insert media program owners. Not only will a broker handle the majority of the daily legwork, but the broker's advice will save precious time and money.

In recent years, the growth of well-known companies advertising in insert media programs has multiplied, making this channel more trusted and relevant to prospective customers. With a little experience in other channels, a new insert media player can hit the ground running.

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