Digest's Diet Plan Gets Heavy Helping of DM

With the new year and millions of resolutions to lose weight around the corner, The Reader's Digest Association Inc. is cranking up a multichannel direct marketing effort for ChangeOne, its first diet plan.

It began last month with the release of “Change One,” a 320-page book that “is being sold in a cross-disciplinary, multichannel effort,” said Harold Clarke, vice president and publisher, trade publishing, at Reader's Digest, Pleasantville, NY. The first print run is 125,000 copies.

It is being sold in brick-and-mortar bookstores; online bookstores; mass-market retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kmart and Target; in warehouse clubs; and high-end supermarket chains.

The January issue of Reader's Digest magazine, which mailed in mid-December, has a 12-page article on the ChangeOne plan. Other articles on the diet plan will follow in February, March and April. The January issue directs people to buy the book via a toll-free number or at www.changeone.com/book. The cost is $27.96 plus shipping and handling.

The effort continues Jan. 6 when Reader's Digest drops direct mail promoting the book to 200,000 to 300,000 names from outside lists of health and fitness enthusiasts, such as magazine lists and health-related lists. Some recipients may be subscribers to Reader's Digest.

There will be three types of mailers: one that looks like Reader's Digest magazine; a letter in a No. 10 envelope from Reader's Digest editor-in-chief Jackie Leo explaining the book's benefits; and a package with traditional Reader's Digest non-sweepstakes techniques to encourage action and communicate urgency, with an official-looking outer envelope.

All three mailers will offer a chance to buy the book along with a 64-page pocket personal resource called the Weight Loss Companion, for $29.99 (The companion has a value of $6.95). All mail packages include a business reply envelope as a response mechanism.

The January push is just the start of a campaign that will intensify at prime dieting times through the year.

“The times that people think of diets are basically when they've just made a new year's resolution in January and when they are thinking of getting into a bathing suit when the weather is getting better in the spring,” said Keira Krausz, Reader's Digest vice president, general manager, health and home. “So, we've timed our campaigns to go along with the magazine articles and with our customers' top concerns and what drives people to suddenly diet.”

More direct mail will go out in April. At least 500,000 pieces will be sent, Krausz said, and that number could double. Depending on the January results, Reader's Digest will mail to more names from the lists used in January or tap new lists.

Some will go to Reader's Digest subscribers. Krausz said Reader's Digest built an equation that goes through its file to identify people who would want direct mail about the book. It will add these names to the April mailing.

“It is likely that we will use one of these packages again, or if two are working, we'll do two,” Krausz said. “And since we are going to mail to our own customers in April as well, we'll probably use one of our strongest internal promotions.”

The January article also directs readers to changeone.com, a site that formally launches Jan. 2 though it is currently running in a limited way. Reader's Digest ran teaser ads in its November and December issues, driving people to the Web site and a free monthly newsletter.

Participants can sign up for the free monthly newsletter, ChangeOne Digest, which contains recipes and weight-loss tips, and they also can opt to receive e-mail offers from changeone.com, Reader's Digest and its affiliates and partners.

For a $9.95 monthly fee, consumers can become ChangeOne subscribers and receive custom meal plans; advice from other ChangeOne dieters; calculators, tools and interactive features to track their progress; and a weekly, customized e-mail newsletter called ChangeOne Insider.

The company would not say how many people have already signed up, but Andrew Bein, general manager, digital business for Reader's Digest, said results so far “have been very promising.”

The company also begins testing Web and e-mail marketing programs this month.

Reader's Digest magazine is currently the only print advertising vehicle for the book, and space ads appear in the January issue promoting the book, along with a toll-free number.

A public relations campaign is in full swing, with book signings and interviews on satellite radio and television scheduled. Reader's Digest has a confirmed appearance on NBC's “Today” to promote the program Jan. 3.

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