Driving Direct Mail Demand with Embellishments
At PRINTING United Expo this week, Ashley Roberts, managing editor at PRINTING United Alliance, ran an informative panel session taking a closer look at driving direct mail results using embellishments. She was joined by Tim Armstrong, the founder of Flowcode; Scott Evans, president and CEO of Kenmore Envelope; and Chris Matthews, account manager for Scentisphere.
In general, the panel agreed that if there is one thing attendees can take away from the session, it’s that direct mail is a powerful way to connect to individual consumers, forging connections that an online presence alone simply can’t match. But to take direct mail even further and drive response rates up to 30% or more, embellishments are the way to go.
Evans noted that “the big trends we’re seeing right now are that embellishments are real, and the drive real response. Everything from soft touch, to QR codes, to scents, foiling, grits, and recently cast and cure and cold foil — a few years ago we were checking out the market and looking at the packaging, and there are some amazing embellishments, and our strategy was, why can’t we take that and make mail better?”
One of those embellishments making a huge splash right now is QR codes, and Armstrong noted that while they have been around for a while, there are a few reasons they’re making such a big resurgence right now. First, with modern phone cameras, a dedicated app is no longer needed to scan and use the codes, which opens up the applications by a significant amount. Second, data management has improved by leaps and bounds, allowing brands to target specific campaigns and messages to specific people — both for the print and online components. “The technology is there, the interactions are there — the upside to QR codes is tremendous,” he said. “And every consumer has a phone and loves their phone, there is no reason to fight that.”
Further, he noted, bringing together the “IRL” elements into the “URL” elements creates a powerful, unified experience that consumers are looking for when they interact with brands. It’s not about one single element, but making a cohesive campaign that draws consumers in and making them want to interact with the brand on multiple levels.
But QR codes aren’t the only embellishments the panel examined for unique ways to capture and keep consumer attention. Adding scent to a direct mail campaign can take a regular message into something that stands out from the crows in a powerful way. “Being recognized is the way to raise response rates,” said Matthews. “It’s all about engagement — all of these features are meant to engage the consumer. I think scent at a high level engages mail recipients in a big way — and I’m not talking about jamming a random scent into a campaign, but using relevant scents that match the imagery.”
Adding scent to a direct mail campaigns is simple as well — it can be added to any open ink or color station on a press, and is applied as a coating or varnish. And, Matthews said, the scents will last for years once applied, making it a powerful message that will stand the test of time and be a piece consumers will want to hold on to and share.
But QR codes and scents are the only ways to catch attention — the panel re-emphasized that it is all about finding the right elements for each brand and campaign that will resonate with the target audience. Too many brands are reluctant to run tests right now — they try a single embellishment once, and if they don’t get the expected response, they abandon the idea. But just like with online marketing, constant testing is needed to really capture the most response rates. USPS discounts and programs that offer rebates to campaigns using embellishments are a great time to run these tests, the panel advised — with the discounts, sometimes the savings will cover most, if not all, of the cost of the embellishment, allowing brands to be creative and come up with new and engaging ideas.
Finally, the panel noted that it can be hard for brand mangers to understand embellishment options. Rather than just telling them, take the initiative to add embellishments to their existing direct mail campaigns to let them see and feel the difference. Whether it’s just for a few samples, or you add them to their whole campaign so they can experience the response rate increases embellishments can bring, the key is to give them something that will then spark further creativity for future campaigns.