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Why New-Move Mailing Lists Work

One of the major mailing list categories is change-of-address — CHADS — or new-move lists. There are more than 900 new-move lists on the market, and each one has a number of mailers using it. In the United States, nearly 25 percent of the households move every year. About 43 million people move every year.

When examining why new-move lists work, several things are obvious:

A new location requires new stuff. When you move, you are faced with new needs. Your curtains and rugs no longer fit. You may need a new bank loan or even a new pool service. You need a wide variety of goods and services for your new location.

You may have left your parents’ home and moved into the first place of your own. If so, you need just about everything (there is even a good chance mom and dad have kept your bedroom furniture and converted your old bedroom into a guest room).

With about 50 percent of American couples getting divorced, there is a plethora of people starting over. One partner usually gets to keep most of the stuff — the other has to start from scratch. Often the newly divided couple have to scale down economically — so the king-size bed does not work for either person.

If you have received a job promotion, you may no longer want your chain-store living room, dining room or bedroom furniture. While you are trading in your Honda for a Lexus, you are also trading in your stainless steel cutlery for silver plate.

If you moved because of a marriage or baby, you will want all kinds of stuff for your new household or the child’s nursery. And with your new responsibilities you probably also will feel a need for insurance and probably will need additional credit cards to handle new expenses.

Long-distance moves translate to a new persona. When you relocate over a long distance, you truly leave your old life behind. You leave your old friends and neighbors, your old hangouts, you leave your old lifestyle. Now that you are in a new house or apartment, in a different part of the country, you want to surround yourself with new stuff that reflects your new self-image. You are no longer your parents’ child, your spouse’s partner or the person who used to live on Main Street. You are a new person who wants not only new stuff — you want different stuff.

If all of your life you have lived in New York surrounded by earth tones, now that you have relocated to Colorado, you are throwing away your browns and ocher and replacing them with greens and blues. If you just moved near the water, you are a prospect for swimwear and beach totes. Move to Texas, and before you know it, you are strutting around in boots. If you move to a golfing area, your entire wardrobe changes.

You are a new you, wanting to surround yourself with things that remind you of that and reflect this new persona. This is a time of re-evaluation of your personal preferences and the exploration of new lifestyle options. The oak table is gone — glass and chrome are in. The wall-to-wall carpet is gone — polished hardwood with area rugs is in. The suits and ties are gone — khakis are in.

Long-distance moves force you to look at yourself — and your stuff. You look at that oak table and ask, “Do I really want to move this table 1,300 miles?” There is a good chance the answer is no — you are moving on to a new life.

The long-distance move also translates to a new barber, grocery store, hairdresser, dentist, optician, bank — you name it. If it is a product or service you use, you need a new supplier.

Most people who profitably mail new-move lists are not selling new stuff or selling products or services that help reflect your new self-image.

Most new moves are made within the same ZIP code. The people who are moving keep the same jobs at the same companies, they continue to shop at the same stores, their children attend the same schools, they belong to the same clubs and they keep their same friends (though they do change neighbors).

So why are these people responsive to direct mail offers? What makes these local new-move names work? To understand, you must take one step backward. It is not that these people have just moved — it is the reason they moved.

The best way to look at this is to examine who is profitably mailing new-move lists. The most significant user categories are magazines, music clubs and credit card or financial solicitations. Among these three categories a billion new-move names are mailed annually. That is a lot of mail. That translates to more than $400 million in annual direct mail expenses for lists, computerization, printing, mailing and postage. That is more than $1 million a day.

Why do new-move names respond? The answer lies in the understanding of the reasons that precipitated the move, in the subconscious psychological factors at work. The consumers who receive and respond to the direct mail are generally unaware of these factors.

The factors that create a move are also the variables of life stress. These are the epochs of life. They include leaving home, graduation, marriage, divorce, having a child, empty nest, new job or promotion, loss of job, sickness, widowhood, newfound wealth or personal economic downturn. These are the most stressful events of our lives.

Many of these changes symbolize increased autonomy and experimentation. Perhaps for the first time an individual is making decisions on his own, without the approval or influence of others. This is expressed in making decisions to subscribe to magazines of his liking or signing up for a music club that offers his personal kind of music, or accepting a credit card solicitation for his own card. All of these actions are expressions of freedom and independence, a confirmation of the individual’s right to make decisions for himself, a fulfillment of his personal yearnings and desires.

These life changes often compel an individual to gain a semblance of control by deciding what to receive and what to reject.

There is a need to affiliate. Life stress drives the need for affiliation. The new move demands that a person regain familiarity or symbolic attachment by ordering something associated with another person’s interests or involvements, or even denying the other by ordering something contrary to the other person’s tastes. The just-divorced person specifically subscribes to a magazine his ex-spouse would object to or buys music that her ex-spouse disliked.

Another social and psychological variable is preference of the familiar. Someone might not have been interested in a specific mail-order offer before he moved. However, after the move, even if it is only a short distance, he is receptive. People prefer the familiar to the unfamiliar. If given an opportunity, people will surround themselves with sameness. The catalog that was previously uninteresting now represents familiarity.

An interesting psychological test is to show an individual a group of pictures. These pictures are then mixed with another group of unseen photographs. Ask the person to view the larger set of pictures and identify the pictures she likes. The individual will tend to pick the previously viewed pictures, even if viewed only for a few seconds. When people move, even a short distance, the things they can connect to their previous life are the things that are more familiar to them and, therefore, more liked and valued.

Moving compels individuals to hold onto the familiar, even to the point of having control of what will be delivered to the new address, especially regularly and repetitively. Being able to determine what arrives enhances a sense of ownership and sense of place. When you receive mailings, magazines, catalogs and merchandise at your new address, you establish a feeling of being connected once again.

There are other needs. Obviously, specific precipitants and motivations for moves may sometimes be associated with specific mailings. A woman getting married and looking forward to entertaining guests might become interested in subscribing to Gourmet magazine. A person who just entered the job market or who received a promotion might decide to subscribe to The Wall Street Journal or Business Week.

Another factor is a sense of “newness.” You have a new home, and you want to surround yourself with new stuff. Along with your new curtains and new carpeting you might want new magazines and new furnishings. Change begets change. You just changed your home; you are much more open to other changes. When direct mail solicitations come to you, you are willing to try a new product or a new supplier.

There is a clutter factor. As a direct marketer, another factor is at work. Almost all direct mail is sent bulk rate and is not forwarded. There is a short window, immediately after a new move, during which little mail is being delivered to consumers. When direct marketers send their mailings to new-move addresses, they have the advantage of less clutter. A less-crowded mailbox means a higher probability of the mailing being read. When you couple this with the psychological factors, you get a consumer response of “Wow, someone knows where I am.”

Several fundraising nonprofits send name-and-address labels to new-move names. Here they are fulfilling an important need for consumers; everyone loves to see their name, with their new address, in print. The new mover is significantly more thankful for these labels than a person who has been at that address for years. And that thankfulness is expressed in donations.

What does all this mean? Both simplistic and deep-seated factors drive the responsiveness of new-move mailing lists. This has been discovered by hundreds of mailers, but many thousands have not uncovered this potential. Millions of names are available on a 30-day hotline basis. If you have not tested change-of-address/new-move names you are possibly missing a great opportunity. If you have tested them, and they did not work, it is probably a good idea to take another look at your test and your offer. Possibly you need to add some other criteria, such as bank cardholder or gender selection, to make the lists work for you. The bottom line is that new-move names are responsive.

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