A tiny holographic digital advisor… A box that appears in your house, seemingly by magic or treachery… A portable microwave oven offering an awesomely cheesy experience, with a side of retro nostalgia… What could these things possibly have in common?
They’re all examples of the best direct mail advertising campaigns in the last few years. We’ve gathered these, and many others, to inspire your campaigns with their creativity and boldness.
Last week we walked you through 8 simple steps for designing an effective direct mail advertising campaign. This week, we’ll see those steps, and the principles that drive them, put into action with real-world direct mail examples.
We want to offer you examples of our primary principles for direct mail advertising, so you can see them in action, and see the results.
These five principles drive every successful direct mail advertising campaign:
Browse through our examples of each below, and consider how you can make them work for your direct mail message.
When you receive mail, what’s the difference between you opening the letter and throwing it in the trash? Often, the question you ask is simple: Is this for me personally, or is it spam?
Your prospects are people, too, even if they’re high-level decision makers in B2B. To get them to even open your direct mail, much less pay attention to it, you need to make it personal.
The following are great examples of personalization in action.
GumGum, an applied computer vision company, wanted to win over T-mobile. The CMO researched the buying committee, starting with the executive leadership team, and discovered the T-Mobile CEO at the time was a huge fan of Batman.
Knowing this, they created an entire comic book, T-Man, and Gums, to show T-mobile what a super partnership they could have. GumGum's editors, writers, illustrators, and letters created a delightful, colorful story and shipped 100 copies to T-mobile and its agencies of record.
They won the account and likely made one hundred friends. Because T-mobile is such a high-profile account, the initial expenditure on the comic is dwarfed by the benefit of a lifetime relationship. This just goes to show that if you have a valuable audience, take the time to get to know them and then show up in a highly personal way and beyond what they expect.
I have to admit, this one made us geek out. O2 is a B2B telecom service provider in the UK. It has a lot of brand recognition there, but its sales team was having an incredibly difficult time getting anyone to answer the phone.
Those who did answer the phone, however, revealed that they were frustrated with their current provider. Customers complained that there was poor customer service and no clear representative to go to with questions.
This sparked a clever idea in O2’s marketing department. They answered this need by selecting their top 50 prospective accounts and promising them a Digital Advisor, so they would always have a clear point of contact. But to introduce this idea…
They created Digital Dave. In 50 personalized scripts, a holographic sales rep explained just what O2 would provide if the prospect switched to their services. Ten of the accounts responded within the first week, and the campaign has already earned an ROI of 13:1, with increases likely to come as the competition’s contracts run out.
Architectural design firm Anderson Canyon was looking to expand their business, but they didn’t want to go the traditional route. In today’s flooded marketing landscape, “traditional” means “ignored.”
Since being remarkable isn’t an option, it’s a requirement, we partnered with Anderson Canyon to create a multimedia direct mailer for their best possible prospects. The unique branded packaging contained a customized video and personal letter detailing how Anderson Canyon could help the prospect and why they made the perfect match.
Since each letter answered each prospect’s problems with personalized solutions, it made an immediate connection. This made a good first impression and made for a successful campaign with a 14% response rate and nearly $700,000 in their sales pipeline.
DatAvail had a hard task set for them: make database administration fun. They wanted to connect with folks in their industry at trade shows, but first, they had to get their attention.
To do this they created a board game: Datavailopoly. It played off all the insider knowledge and jokes that a database administrator would understand.
Then, they sent out pieces of the game as direct mail, encouraging their prospects to meet up with them at networking events to get their full copy of the board game.
This worked well because of three factors:
Add some fun into your campaign, but remember: make sure it’s specifically fun for your target audience! Fun is different for different groups, so consider your prospects on a personal level, and add in something fun that matches them.
One Inc. was struggling to reach their perfect prospects. They needed to reach C-suite level insurance executives, but this group is barraged by digital offers every day. Direct mail seemed like the answer, but he sits behind heavy layers of gatekeepers, making him difficult to reach at all, let alone engage.
When they brought us the problem, we did some research, and found that their top prospects were keen to receive meaningful, personalized gifts.
We designed a high-quality box containing an elegant bottle of wine and a totally personalized video message. Nothing about this presentation was cheaply done, and everything was thoughtfully coordinated for the intended recipient.
This campaign not only booked meetings, it generated over 200x ROI for One Inc. The lesson? Combine personalization and quality presentation, and it’s magic.
There is evidence to suggest that people care even more about relevance than they do about personalization (we’ll discuss this point more in later articles).
Think about it: maybe the milk in the marketplace doesn’t have your name on it, but if you need it for your cereal, you don’t care.
Every message you send needs to be relevant to your target audience to get their attention. The following examples will show you how to do that in direct mail.
In May of 2020, Bethany Health Care Center sent out a direct mail campaign. It was a simple fundraising letter, but it had tremendous results. Why?
Because Bethany Health Care Center spoke directly to the common experience of their prospects. At this point, quarantine was the norm, and people were feeling increasingly isolated. But the message from Bethany Health Care Center was honest, direct, and spoke to the moment.
In the letter itself, the author admits that they thought about not sending the fundraising request at all, but then they thought about the residents of Bethany Health Care Center. They follow this by explaining how the center had adjusted to coronavirus restrictions.
By meeting the moment and being aware of the context of their message, Bethany Health Care Center surpassed their goal by 296% for this campaign. This ensured the message was relevant to their prospects’ current concerns.
When designing your own direct mail campaign, consider the social environment of your message, and remember: honesty is always the best policy.
O2 is an ICT service provider based in the UK with a lot of competition. They need to reach executives with little time and a lot of options.
To be as relevant and specific as possible for their perfect prospects, O2 created individual reports for each target organization showing how much the company would save and earn in revenue if they partnered with O2 for their ICT service.
They mailed the reports to over 2,000 employees at each prospect organization, including c-suite execs and board members. Following the report delivery, sales reps followed up to schedule a face-to-face meeting. This one-two punch of information and follow-up is highly effective in B2B direct marketing.
In O2's case, they exceeded their pipeline targets by over 300%. This is what sales and marketing alignment needs to look like when going after your key target accounts.
Qualtrix is a digital customer experience software. The decision to partner with them is made by C-suite execs, but those aren’t the ultimate end users. Because of this, Qualtrix also wanted to reach the influencers in marketing operations and IT & Security, who are most concerned with marketing data.
They sent a door opening package to C-suite execs, encouraging them to download a 10-step Guide to Healthy Data Management guide while also offering them a box of high-quality coffee to "give their data a jolt."
Simultaneously, they sent influencers in Marketing and IT a postcard with a single-serving packet of coffee offering an analysis of their customer database. By contacting everyone who would find the decision to adopt Qualtrix relevant, they made a great first impression and improved their ROI.
Patient First, an urgent care center chain, used variable data printing (VDP) to show their prospects how close they were to their nearest location.
The brilliance of this lies in making it simple for the prospect to take action by visiting the nearest location, as well as showing you’ve done the research: Patient First knows they are a convenient medical provider for these people, because they’ve checked.
Even something simple like using VDP to give your prospect a relevant map can make a huge difference.
Charles Schwab, a financial services company, had lofty goals for this campaign. They wanted to persuade financial advisors at large institutions to go rogue– becoming independent and instead holding their clients’ assets with Schwab.
Of course, this decision takes a lot of convincing, and in a data-minded group like financial advisors, you have to show them the money first (figuratively speaking).
Schwab did just that with a book full of original content, pulling from data and experiences from advisors who had already made the switch. By showing their prospects the exact results other financial advisors had already won, they made the switch all the more attractive.
This is basically a book-length testimonial, but the real-world data and high-quality presentation make it a winner. Remember, the most valuable resource you have in your marketing is your current clients (so long as you keep them happy)!
The first step with any piece of direct mail is… you have to get people to open it.
Then, the second step, nearly as hard as the first… you have to get people to engage with it enough to remember the experience, and thus, remember you.
But, if you can manage these two steps, you’ll have greater ROI and greater engagement than you ever dreamed of, especially when compared to inbound marketing.
The examples below will show you how to think outside of the box, even when what you’re making is… well… a box.
Hexagon wanted to impress their partners and investors with their Annual Report. A PDF or PowerPoint slide? No way. Hexagon thought bigger.
They combined augmented reality with their annual report. The viewer was invited to download an AR app that allowed their phone to "trigger" some aspects within the report.
The trigger would prompt interactive images viewed through the phone, like Pokemon GO for financials and product descriptions.
Not only does this make the dry material of the Annual Report more interesting, it showed off Hexagon's ability to use the latest tech for the benefit of their clients.
Remember: every touchpoint, even those that seem set in stone, is a chance to engage your prospects. If you have some dry materials in your campaign, such as repetitive announcements or financial information, use video or AR to make it captivating
It can often feel impossible to spread your message by word of mouth, even over social media. If you’re trying to attract the attention of influencers, you might feel inclined to pay them for sponsorships.
You don’t have to do this. Not if you grab their attention with an impossible to ignore gift.
Our client Frito-Lay wanted to spread word of mouth buzz over social media for their new product, Mac N’ Cheetos. To help start the fire, we created a media gift package for key foodie influencers. The package included an entire microwave, a package of Mac N’ Cheetos, and an instruction video with retro vibes.
The gift was so remarkable, influencers couldn’t help but talk about it on their profiles. 50 kits turned into 1.3 million impressions and 8,000 shares. The buzz even generated blog articles, spreading the word to even more people.
If you’re interested in spreading the word on social media, or you just want to wow prospective donors, send them a remarkable gift they can’t help but talk about.
For more about sparking word-of-mouth buzz, read our series on the topic here.
Now, I'm not saying you should copy this one exactly. It's a bit creepy, but the idea is so brilliant, we had to share.
ADT is a home security provider. You've probably seen the little blue signs in people's yards. However, while ADT is ubiquitous among homeowners, many apartment renters don't consider their home security needs.
Most home security providers use fairly traditional channels: television ads, radio, maybe a postcard or two. ADT took the direct mail route and made it remarkable (and a little scary).
First, they built a box that would start flat but pop up into a cube on its own. Then, they slid the flat box underneath people's doors. The box would pop up inside of the apartment.
When the resident saw the box, it would look like someone had left a package inside of their home. The box had this eerie message: "Breaking into your apartment is easier than you think."
Memorable? Yes. A cause for calling the police? Maybe. But if the goal of marketing is to grab their attention, this box certainly hit the mark.
Topline, a B2B video production company, conducted a direct mail marketing campaign where they sent their 50 top prospect accounts a mini-toolbox. Not only were these an eye-catching, unique gift, they added an extra touch: they removed one of the tools.
The pliers were obviously missing from the toolkit. Topline asked, “Something missing from your marketing toolkit? We have it!”
The campaign cost only £400, but generated over £50,000 in revenue. A little creativity goes a long way in direct mail marketing!
Most people can’t resist a good mystery. This is why there are approximately one million murder mystery shows and movies (I don’t have the exact number, but that feels accurate).
People love to solve puzzles and become one of the initiated few who know the answer. You can use this in your direct marketing campaigns, like we did with our client partner BillingTree.
For their direct mail efforts, we created a puzzle box. Inside was an Amazon gift card awaiting the happy recipient, but there was a catch… literally.
The box was locked, and we didn’t include the combination.
This element made it so people felt compelled to open the box, because who doesn’t love to solve a mystery? And that compulsion to open the box and see what was inside led to over 700% ROI on this campaign.
Remember Driver’s Ed? You sat at your desk, doodling, while the teacher drew charts of intersections or explained the nuances of a three-point turn.
But after class, did you jump behind the wheel, ready to go? Maybe you felt like you were ready (teenagers are crazy), but the only thing that taught you how to really drive… was driving.
Experience behind the wheel is what makes a driving expert. This holds true in marketing, as well. If you want to be memorable and stick with your client past your initial point of contact, you need them to experience your brand, not just read about it.
Actions speak louder than words, and in the following examples, we’ll show you how to incorporate actions in your direct mail advertising campaign.
The Skoda Yeti can make the parking struggle a thing of the past with parking assist. However, the problem with a new feature is you can't just explain it. You have to make it memorable.
Skoda created a postcard. On one side, a little Skoda Yeti. On the other, a similarly tiny parking space.
Simply place the miniature Skoda Yeti on the card, and magnets drag it into the correct spot. Not only is it simple, but it gives the prospect a direct sensation of ease associated with Skoda's parking assist.
This kind of interactivity and tactile experience sparks word of mouth and makes a memory for your prospect. How can you use memorable interactivity in your next direct mail fundraising campaign?
An Italian online laundry company had difficulty getting the attention of their target market. Their research indicated that many Italians didn't even know online laundry services were available.
When your market has no idea you exist, you have no choice but to be remarkable. LavOnline got the attention of married professionals, who have little time to do their own laundry, with their Tomato Splat mailer.
This is the kind of fun item that will stay on someone's desk for a long time. People will walk by and give the reforming tomato their own try, which leads to more word-of-mouth for LavOnline.
Within four weeks, 32% of recipients registered online, and 8% tried the service. Site traffic increased by 15%. These are significant boosts for an e-commerce business and an unmatched success rate compared to inbound marketing averages over one month.
When creating mailers with added physical objects, make sure it does at least one of the following, but preferably both: it's fun enough to keep around, or it's helpful enough to keep around. If you can do one or two of these things, you'll stay top-of-mind with your prospect.
Every year, the World Wildlife Federation sponsors "Earth hour." It's a call for companies and individuals to turn out their lights for one hour. Instead of consuming during that hour, the whole world is encouraged to think about ways we can better support the environment.
Of course, getting companies to go "lights off" can be challenging. To address this challenge, WWF sent a candle in a specially-made box to CEOs. The box looks like an office building viewed from the outside, with all the lights on. When the candle is pulled out, it goes dark.
Not only is the visual striking, but the candle itself acts as a physical reminder that can also be used during Earth hour!
This campaign hits several sweet spots since it's memorable, practical, and combines most of the senses into one presented item (scent, sight, and touch). The year WWF sent the candles; corporate participation increased 260%. Now that's a remarkable return for one little candle!
Liberty Mutual is an auto insurance provider, but they do more than pay claims. They also offer quick body-work, repair services, personalized customer care, and exclusive solutions.
Unfortunately, many of their customers did not know they had all of these available to them. Liberty Mutual wanted to let them know, and in a way that was quick, playful, and memorable.
So, they created “scratcher” postcard mailers. These worked the same as lottery tickets. Take a penny and scratch up the side of the car… to reveal a new, undamaged vehicle.
The campaign had a clear message: this is how easy it is to use Liberty Mutual’s auto repair services. By adding this element of physicality, they made that message much more memorable.
B2B marketers tend to rely on data and facts. Don't get me wrong, they are important, but you shouldn't lead with that.
Hearing that ER wait times are 2x longer today than they were in 1990 might make you say, "That's not good," but does it motivate you to take a specific action?
How about hearing the story of a husband watching as his partner suffers in a waiting room? That's different. You can imagine being in the same position. Your loved one cries out in pain, and there's nothing you can do but sit in the chair and wait.
An emotional story is both more memorable and more impactful than the statistic on its own. We may not remember numbers and facts, but we remember stories. In fact, storytelling is 20 times more likely to be remembered over facts and figures.
If you want to be memorable (and believe me, you want to be), connect to the heart before you go after the brain.
In Operation Smile’s direct mailer, they not only included a well-worded and persuasive fundraising letter, but another letter meant not for the giver, but for the child they were going to help.
Inside of the mailer were fifteen adorable stickers and a message for the child: “A new smile. A new day. A new life. I'm so happy for you! From your friend in (donor's state), USA.” Then the donor could sign the letter and send it back along with their gift.
This brilliant addition showed the potential donor their impact in an immediate, emotional way. They could see clearly that they would be the hero for a child with cleft palate.
Your most valuable relationships are people who have already donated time or money to your organization, and it’s important to take time to show your appreciation.
Texas A&M raised over $75 million to renovate their Zachry Engineering Building and turn it into a state-of-the-art teaching facility. After such wonderful contributions from their donors, they wanted to show their thanks.
Rather than just another plaque or certificate, Texas A&M partnered with UviaUs to create a unique, interactive gift.
The gift featured an embedded video player, loaded with a personalized message of thanks from the engineering students who benefited directly from their donation—packaged in a fully branded keepsake box specifically designed with Texas A&M alumni in mind.
This outreach campaign won awards for its innovation and excellence, but most importantly, it showed the donors that their gift truly mattered.
Okta, an identity protection provider for enterprise, wanted to make a connection. They decided to introduce themselves with a gift, but they wanted it to be something that brought up the feelings of security and convenience that came with using their services.
So, Okta provided a Tile, a small device that attaches to your keys or other valuables, making it easy to know when and where you’ve left them behind.
These high-tech gifts are not likely to be ignored by the recipient, since they’re so easy to set up and helpful to use. That means every time the prospect loses their keys and then finds them easily and quickly thanks to Tile, they’ll be reminded positively of Okta.
Slack, a work communication platform, has become even more popular after the rise of remote work was accelerated by the pandemic. Even though they are an online product, they know the value of direct mail when making a connection.
Here is one of my favorite postcards, from Slack. This is a silly card that’s fun to look at, but it also contains their truthful proposition: you can get more done on Slack.
Nobody likes meetings, and promising their product will cut down on meetings brings a sense of potential relief, in addition to the humor of the card. A joke like this is memorable, and generates a positive impression for their prospects.
Few things produce as strong an emotional reaction as childhood nostalgia. If you can connect to someone’s childhood, you’ve almost certainly made a new friend.
We focused on this idea with one of our own recent outreach campaigns. During a brainstorming meeting (must have been around lunch time), one of our teammates came up with this sentence: “We go together like peanut butter and jelly.”
What does peanut butter and jelly make you think of? It’s familiar (name a more iconic duo, I’ll wait), and because it connects with most people’s childhoods, it produces a positive first impression.
It was so clever yet so clear that we knew it would be memorable. So we built an entire campaign around it! That campaign put us top of mind and smoothed the way to new client relationships.
Who knew being known as the “peanut butter and jelly people” would have so many benefits?
Which of these examples did you like best? Are you feeling inspired and ready to start designing your own?
If you need more tips on building a fantastic direct mail advertising campaign, take a look at these articles:
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