Lighthearted Ransom Note Holds the Future Hostage

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A ransom note can be a delicate theme for a direct mail campaign, but Managing Editor Inc., a software developer for the publishing industry, thinks a dose of humor makes the concept work.

To convey the idea that MEI has a better solution for publishers, the company designed an oversized postcard with text that looks as if it were cut from newspapers and magazines. The message? "We have your future. If you ever wish to see it again, flip this note over."

"It's a fun way of saying, 'Hey, we have a better solution that can make your future and work easier. If you want it, come and get it, or stay where you are,'" said Will Steuber, graphic designer at MEI. "The piece has humor running throughout but it gets our message across and makes sense to the audience we are targeting."

MEI dropped 2,000 pieces last week targeting people the company met at trade shows or through its site in the past six months. Levels contacted include production managers, art directors, graphic artists and freelancers.

The campaign is for the newest version of its product called TruEdit, a collaborative workflow tool that operates with Adobe InCopy and Adobe InDesign. It is used mainly by smaller publications, though larger ones are finding uses for it, Steuber said.

The theme is that people get locked into a way of doing things and use the same tools over and over. In the case of production and graphic artists, MEI wants to show them a better solution for their work.

"In general, people can get too comfortable with the way they do things," he said. "And as a result, they may be ignoring a much better and efficient option. In this case, we are appealing to a group of people who may have become too comfortable with the current form of software they are using."

The text continues to play off the ransom theme by asking recipients whether they feel like they are being held hostage by their old software. If so, the piece tells them to make an escape "with Managing Editor's TruEdit," and that MEI can help them break free of their "present confines and limitations" by leaping into "the future of state-of-the-art layout design and word processing."

The back of the piece lists three steps on how to download a free version of TruEdit and receive a specially priced offer. Respondents can visit a Web site or call a toll-free number.

Though the campaign obviously aims to generate sales, Steuber said, another goal is to build a dialogue with prospects since it is asking them to switch from a program they might have used for years.

"The sales cycle can either be very short for this product or rather long," he said. "When you are asking people to change the way they have done things for quite a while, it might take more than one mailing to accomplish that."

MEI plans at least three more postcard mailings to this group and others who reach out to the company requesting more information. MEI will do outbound prospecting as well.

The creative for the campaign was done in-house. The overall cost was about $5,000.


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