Debunking Insert Media Myths

Leon Henry’s Gail Henry discusses where the insert media channel stands today, touching on popular misconceptions, unknown benefits and the evolving “websert” channel.

What makes insert media a good investment in this economy?
Inserts distributed in packages — retail or mail order — go directly to the recipient at the time they receive something they’ve purchased. It is an environment that lends itself to response, because the recipient should be in a positive mood when opening his or her purchase. In addition, while postage has continued to rise, the cost of insert distribution has stayed the same, if not gone down. This is due to several factors. One is increased circulation brought on by the increase in the number of insert programs opening up. Another is the unwritten rule of exclusivity still present in insert purchases, so the mailer is not facing competition for its offer.

What are some misconceptions of insert media?
There are many, and most are incorrect. The most prevalent is, “I tried inserts and they do not work.” Usually, this is due to incorrect testing structure, and the results are skewed. Inserts are a three-step medium: test, retest and continue/exploit. Because of the nature of the distribution timing, test results are all over the lot in terms of time and response. It takes a while to see the curves and extrapolate the price needed to be paid to make the inserts viable. Ed. note: For more on the importance of testing, see Gail’s Technique entry from February 2, 2009.

What about some positives of the channel that marketers might not be unaware of?
Again, there are many. One is right of refusal, which is honored most of the time. Coupled with exclusivity, the mailer has a “’til forbid” situation most of the time. Also, pricing is very negotiable, the economy notwithstanding. The marketplace is much larger than most mailers expect. Back-end results are better than most mailers are used to.

What makes a certain type of insert program (package insert, bangtail, ride-along, etc.) better for certain offers?
The correlation of the offer with the distribution determines what is the best vehicle. Large purchase offers do better in package inserts where, by definition, the buyer has purchased. Inquiries do better in large-volume mailings, where the price can be negotiated down. Obviously, purchases that correlate with the insert offer work best; i.e. baby photo offers distributed in mother sampling kits.

What do webserts mean for the future of insert marketing?
There is no question that online advertising is very much here and now. Marketers have always under-used insert media. The numbers of mailers is lower than it should be as is the distribution base. The potential is greater now than it has been, and webserts are an example of the media interaction that inserts represent. It’s two marketers coming together to reach the customer efficiently and at a lower price than they could on their own.

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