Aristotle, an Internet service provider based in Arkansas that has begun expanding nationally, is using the U.S. Postal Service's Customized MarketMail program to promote its entrance into the Memphis, TN, market.
CMM lets direct marketers mail nonrectangular pieces without having to enclose them in a package or envelope. The company chose Memphis as the first test area because it thought it would be similar to its Arkansas market.
Aristotle, Little Rock, and marketing agency Thompson & Company of Memphis decided to use CMM after Andrew Macris, creative director of Conversant Relationship Marketing — Thompson & Company's direct marketing arm — saw a USPS demonstration in Memphis.
“It was love at first sight,” Macris said. “We were enthusiastic as soon as we saw the samples. We felt it was a perfect fit for [Aristotle's] message.”
Aristotle and the agency worked with ShipShapes, Park Forest, IL, to create a high-gloss mailer on a thin, recyclable sheet of silver-metallic plastic that is designed to look like two Tennessee state quarters.
One side displays the image of the two quarters with copy that reads “Premium Internet Access For Just 50¢/Hour.” The other side of the mailer has black and white circles with copy.
Inside the black circle is a letter from Aristotle president/CEO Elizabeth Bowles addressed “Dear Memphian.” The copy begins, “Two quarters. That's pocket change. But now, it's all you need to get accelerated dial-up Internet access.”
The letter noted that if respondents signed up by Jan. 6, 2004, Aristotle would waive the $12.95 one-time membership fee. To sign up, respondents were encouraged to call a toll-free number or log onto aristotle.net/limitedoffer.
Copy in the white circle listed benefits of the service and again mentioned the toll-free number and Web site.
The mailing went in two batches: 10,000 pieces Nov. 11 and 17,000 on Nov. 24 — both to people with a history of Internet use.
Aristotle also tested a more traditional four-sided mailing on the same dates. This mailing went to a different group of 27,000 with a history of Internet use. It contained the letter from Bowles and the list of benefits, but with more description of each benefit. A semi-circle tab designed to look like part of a quarter folded out to reveal three “real quotes from real customers.”
The CMM mailers were printed on a high-gloss plastic engineered to accept ink and flex without creasing and retain their shape after coming out of the mailbox. To avoid the postal service's mechanized canceling process, the mailings must be shipped directly to the post office where they are hand-canceled.
Costs vary based on the quantity and mailing list, but generally range from $1 to $3 per item including postage and drop-ship costs. The cost is about four times that of a postcard mailer.
“We realize it is substantially more, but we felt it was worth it,” Macris said. “Success of direct mail is a product of, first, catching the consumers' attention and then having a message that resonates.”
In addition, Macris said, because the mailings were going solely to the Memphis market, “we didn't have to pay drop-shipment costs to the individual DDUs. So there was actually a savings.
“The key benefit to using this is that you can have odd-shaped figures go through the mail without an envelope,” he said. “Another important aspect is the durability, [which] eliminates one of the biggest problems with sending postcards through the mail. Some get destroyed, and others end up looking a lot different than when they were mailed. It's just about indestructible, and the ink does not smear. It really stands out.”
Aristotle also used television, public relations and radio along with the direct mail pieces.
Bowles hopes the investment will help double the number of people who use her premium Internet service, and said she may have results early next year. If the ShipShapes mailing works in Memphis, she said, Aristotle will consider it in other markets.