Mailer Gives 3 Views of Winnebago

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Why restrict the number of images on a direct mail piece's envelope to one when three would be more effective?


That's the question direct marketing agency Colle + McVoy, Minneapolis, raised with an element contained in the most recent version of the annual direct mail campaign it produces for motor home manufacturer Winnebago Industries, Forest City, IA.


Before opening the 9-by-6-inch piece, which markets the new Vectra motor home priced at more than $200,000, recipients could look through the 7-by-4-inch window on the envelope's back and view a lenticular -- a hard, coated sheet that displays three images of the vehicle that change depending on how the piece is held. The images alternate among its exterior, chassis and superstructure. Chassis specifications are listed on the lenticular's back side.


"With the lenticular viewed through the see-through window, you can see what's under the skin of a big motor home," said Tom Probst, group creative director at Colle + McVoy, which created and executed the campaign. "It's big and beautiful and you know something is going on in the envelope, and you have to tear it open to see. It was designed to appeal to the natural curiosity of people who want to see the whole picture."


Production-related expenses totaled $2.60 per piece while per-piece Standard postage was 24 cents. The lenticular's per-piece expense was 60 cents and is included in the $2.60 total.


"Inclusion of the lenticular was not as much of a headache as we anticipated," he said. "The production process has been streamlined over the years."


Lenticulars have been used often in point-of-purchase environments, Probst said, and the technology dates to just after World War II.


"What we learned is that you need to avoid strong contrasts between light and dark because it could end up being blurry," he said. "You can have anywhere from three to a dozen views. It depends on what you're trying to do. If you're trying to show a baseball player swinging a bat, more views would be better since it would smooth out the motion. We only wanted to convey different views of a static product. We didn't need to show it driving down a road."


About 28,000 pieces dropped Jan. 9 with an even split between Winnebago's house file names and prospects. Recipients included those who have bought motor homes from Winnebago in a similar price category, or owners who can step up to it easily based on other price levels at which the company's motor homes have been purchased. Probst didn't reveal details regarding list acquisition for the prospecting effort except to say those targeted included owners of non-Winnebago-manufactured motor homes.


"We've found that 56 is the average age for a motor home owner, with most of them having significant assets who are not living off income," he said. "They include well-to-do small-business owners. They travel and get together at rallies and campgrounds. This audience will share things with their friends that they get in the mail, and they will trot out what they think is interesting about their motor homes."


The pitch letter notes "the all-new Evolution chassis" and contains a survey that, when returned, is used to identify hot leads who will be contacted in a follow-up effort by local Winnebago dealers.


"The survey does three things," Probst said. "It lets us know the package is being opened. It also gives us feedback on what people are reading and finding important about the motor home. And it tells us about purchase intent. The goal is to get them to return the survey."


Surveys are collected by Colle + McVoy, then forwarded to Winnebago through the year, with most arriving within six weeks after the drop.


"Then the hot leads -- someone who says they plan to purchase in the near future, weeks or months as opposed to years -- are followed up by the local dealers," he said.


The annual campaigns always more than pay for themselves, Probst said. Past response rates range from more than 2 percent in 1998 to just under 10 percent last year, defined by the percentage of surveys returned. Though describing his expectations as conservative, he said, "We would be happy with 7 to 8 [percent]." He didn't provide a number when asked to speculate regarding the percentage of surveys returned that will be "hot leads."


Other elements in the piece include a brochure with a gatefold and a business reply envelope.


"The motor home game is a game of features," he said. "The brochure focuses on features."


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