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Audio Mailer Uses Daytona 500 to Rev Sales

Catching the eyes of 300 distributors of lighting products wasn't good enough for a direct mail piece.

It also had to catch their ears.

That's why lighting manufacturer Crescent/Stonco, Union, NJ, used a sound chip in a piece it mailed to increase incremental sales from members of Equity Electrical Associates, a network of independent distributors of lighting products.

“THE RACE IS ON!” appeared on the cover along with the image of a tachometer approaching the red line. Opening the piece activates the chip, which generates the sound of a racecar.

Equity members got the piece in July along with a letter via First-Class mail outlining the details of the Crescent/Stonco Winners Circle program. Six winners would receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the Daytona 500 on Feb. 15. Two winners would come from each of three categories based on 2002 Crescent/Stonco product sales totals. Winners would be those that generated the highest incremental sales increases in the second half of 2003.

“The audio component is meant to create impact and excitement, and it ties into the award, which is going to Daytona, and the theme of revving up your engine, revving up sales and winning,” said Jeffrey E. Barnhart, president/CEO of Creative Marketing Alliance, Princeton Junction, NJ, the marketing communications agency that developed, created and executed the program. “It's very easy to incorporate into the piece. It added maybe 20 percent to the cost of production of the piece. That incremental cost is minimal compared to maximizing the impact.”

Because the target audience was in the hundreds, the initial effort in July incurred a $30 per piece cost with most of that attributed to production and creative.

“It cuts through the clutter,” Barnhart said. “It has more impact than just a fax or [a direct mail piece that is] flat or an e-mail. People are exposed to a lot of different messages, and we created a 'wow' factor that entices people to participate.”

Barnhart said the client expected a minimum 5 percent incremental sales increase across the board from those targeted by the promotion. Current sales levels place the overall incremental sales rise at 7 percent.

“[Five percent] would make this a successful, above-break-even promotion,” he said. “It's too early to say, but we would hope to maintain or exceed 7 percent.”

Why use a trip to the Daytona 500 as an incentive?

“NASCAR is very hot right now, and Daytona is the Super Bowl of NASCAR,” he said. “Virtually all [of the recipients] were male.

“They know that they are dealing with a very competitive marketplace, and manufacturers are looking for ways to stand out from among the competition.”

Crescent/Stonco, which is a vendor to Equity Electrical Associates members, mainly sells commercial product that is installed by purchasers in office buildings and warehouses and is used in various commercial and industrial locations. Barnhart placed the company's average sale in the “thousands of dollars.”

Crescent/Stonco has kept the target audience focused on the campaign with an “Equity Monthly Statement” that includes a “TOP 10 LEADER BOARD” specific to their product sales level category.

“Ongoing awareness is important,” he said. “If they see themselves in the top 10, it can give them a sense of urgency. If they are in the No. 4 or 5 spot, it shows that they can make it to the No. 1 or 2 spot.”

The updates do not quantify the distance between any of the companies on the leader board.

Per-piece expense for the six monthly updates is $3, with the majority of that related to the ongoing administration of the program that includes keeping track of the participants' sales totals.

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