Minis Can Maximize Your Inserts

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The mini catalog, inserted into outgoing customer shipments of merchandise or tucked in the folds of a newspaper, may be here to stay. But it may need nurturing and marketing of information on its usefulness for the catalog industry especially as well as any multi-product offers to understand its full value.


Since the insert medium began to blossom in the late 1980s, there has been far greater availability of programs and an increase in the types of mailers/offers. The mini catalog has gained popularity, though not at the same rate as some other insert formats. It is important to get the word out to mailers and insert owners alike to use this exciting, if less familiar, advertising venue more fully.


Various insert mini catalogs and pamphlets are visible to potential customers daily. Some are simple, just shy of 9-by-6-inch, 16-page (eight-page, two-sided) ones that weigh as little as 0.4 ounces, just making the cut for standard "overweight" insert programs where the maximum weight is 0.25 ounces. This size avoids hefty upcharges and/or hand insertion charges.


Newspapers enjoy insertion with different lightweight or mini-type catalog formats, from a four- or 12-page freestanding insert type format or a six-page die-cut flier or eight-page glued spine. A study from Vertis this year found that "advertising insert readership levels are currently at 85 percent or above ... and that Web savvy individuals still rely on advertising inserts. ... 88 percent of Sunday newspaper readers surveyed via the Web said they read Sunday newspaper inserts."


This is another reason inserters of a mini catalog or a pamphlet style can rest assured that not only can they sell multi-product merchandise via newspaper inserts, but also that their ads can be a Web driver as well.


Further advantages exist to using a mini catalog in outgoing vehicles, be they customer merchandise boxes, envelopes or newspapers. The first is the economy of print costs. The second is the economy of postage costs. For each postal rate increase, mailers tell us, there is a concomitant upsurge in their use and testing of insert media. Mailers also should consider using mini catalogs as their own bouncebacks for the same reasons.


Most program owners accept the mini catalog into their packages. As mentioned, the cost depends on the weight of the piece. However, for some owners, the equipment they use makes it difficult to insert the free-paged pieces. Perhaps a simple seal on the mini's loose side could help with more fluid machine insertability. Also, the weight equation in the customer's package adds up fast when you introduce a mini to the mix, forcing some owners to decline acceptance of these pieces. They don't like more bulk than necessary. Why not ensure these are produced on the lightest-weight paper possible while being mindful to preserve your brand's image?


As there are issues of maxing out the weight of the package itself, why not accept mini catalogs in the months you're not so filled up, at least on a test basis? You may be opening a terrific revenue niche, and the mini catalogers would be pleased to have a new source of advertising. Because these weigh more, you can cover your costs of insertion and postage and, in effect, earn more than they may from a lighter single product piece.


Alternatively, control the weight issue by limiting the number of inserts into that specific month to control for postage issues. Finally, sometimes with a multi-product offer there's an increased chance that it can be competitive with the owner's own merchandise. Perhaps early planning and careful clearance procedures can control for this.


Managers are asked more often these days to clear mini catalogs. We have nearly 20 offers that have come through to our management business in the past several months, with new ones sprouting all the time. There is plenty of interest from catalogers in housewares, apparel, gift giving, merchandise, food and health and beauty to produce these. They know that the pricing with the program costs, which for a standard catalog mailing would equal the cost of lists and postage and printing a smaller size piece, can cost them much less than the standard catalog does and still sell multiple product and drive to the Web as well. It also gets the implied endorsement from the vehicle it is fathered into.


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