An offer of a personalized, free daily planner pulled as well as the same offer with an endorsement by Dick Van Dyke in a direct mail test by Bankers Life and Casualty Co. targeting senior citizens.
Both mailings explained that Medicare pays only partial expenses for nursing home care and noted that Bankers Life can help with the rest of the costs. Both also contained a personalized, branded planner, or what Total Marketing Solutions — which developed the pieces with Bankers Life — calls a “freemium.”
“Freemium is a new marketing buzzword,” Total Marketing CEO Michael Scholl said. “It's an upfront personalized premium that's included in a mailing. The recipient's name is printed on the planner or other items with the brand.”
Chicago-based Bankers Life sent a mailing with the calendar offer but no endorsement from Van Dyke to 50,000 recipients last summer. Though pleasantly surprised by the 50 percent response rate, it wanted to be sure the results weren't skewed.
“We were very pleased by the high response to the freemium, but needed to determine if July's results were a fluke,” said Patrick Dati, director of marketing at Bankers Life. “The new control Van Dyke endorsement mailer seemed successful until the results from July's generic freemium mailing were assessed, proving the actual impact came from the freemium instead.”
Bankers Life tested the Van Dyke endorsement directly against the generic planner-only version with a mailing of 25,000 each in January. Bankers Life again found that the generic version pulled as well as Van Dyke did.
Dati said the Van Dyke test has Bankers Life thinking of other ways to get its brand in front of customers.
“Sending a daily planner to prospective clients was a very successful experiment,” Dati said. “We're currently developing other nontraditional ways to reach our audience, provided it's in keeping with our brand image.”
Scholl said nonprofits have used such free offers for years.
“Now our corporate clients are finding them just as successful,” he said. “People hold onto personalized premiums sent upfront,” he said, “and as a result the company's logo is repeatedly seen by the audience. A daily planner of a magnet on the refrigerator gives any brand very high visibility.”