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Hershey Direct earlier this year launched a five-part mailing to promote its line of limited-edition collectible elf figurines. The wee series was produced on a similarly sized budget but generated a giant response.

The first mailing, featuring a St. Patrick's Day leprechaun, produced a whopping 14% response rate of customers who ordered the first 5-inch knickknack in the series, said Bob Zyontz, president of Princeton Marketech, the Princeton, N.J.-based agency that does Hershey Direct's direct marketing and sales promotion work.

Chris Albe, direct marketing manager at the direct division of Hershey Foods Corp., believes the new mailer increased awareness and compelled consumers to "open up the package."

Past direct mail pieces were sent in a plain No. 10 envelope. The new package from Princeton Marketech consisted of a 6-by-9-inch envelope with a display window showcasing a color image of the collectible -- actually, the image appears on the cover of the enclosed brochure. The mailing also included an order form and a questionnaire.

The window envelope also has another benefit: it enables Hershey to feature color artwork at a significant cost savings.

"It gives you the effect of a four-color envelope without the cost," said Renee Hobbs, VP-creative services at Princeton Marketech. Added Ms. Albe: "My budget is small on collectibles."

The remaining four direct pieces will mail throughout the year to coincide with the July 4 holiday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the millennium.

The initial mailing was confined primarily to the most "serious" collectors within Hershey Direct's customer base, but Hershey will expand the mailings to other segments of its database in the future and test outside mailing lists as well.

"Each time, we'll test more and more outside lists and the number of people we mail," Ms. Albe said.

Ms. Hobbs believes Hershey's brand equity was integral to the campaign's early success. The Hershey's brand connotes quality and integrity, Ms. Hobbs said, and she tried to convey this in the direct mail piece. "It shows some of the old-fashioned Americana element of Hershey's."

Back-end analysis also will be possible through the enclosed questionnaire regarding specific collectible interests such as plates and music boxes. This will help Hershey profile customers and determine future product offerings.

Ms. Albe said she's committed to growing the collectibles business for Hershey:

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