USPS DM Deli campaign demonstrates power of variable data printing

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You want mustard with that catalog? Or maybe coleslaw is more to your liking.

Reaching the right consumer with the right message on the right product is crucial to marketing success. The Postal Service recently demonstrated the power and ROI associated with variable data printing through its personalization campaign, the “DM Deli.”

The word “brand” is more important than ever. Through the Internet, consumers have access to product information, price comparisons and peer opinions. They know they have options. The erosion of institutional power is rooted in the rise of consumer information control.

On the surface, it seems obvious. There is nothing new or surprising in the current industry environment. Consumers are bombarded with increasing amounts of direct mail they find irrelevant, making them question the value of the mail in general.

Marketers are under increasing pressure to increase response rates to their mailings and demonstrate greater return on investment.

Mail that is tailored to the recipient, in terms of who they are, their needs and specific interests, is more likely to appeal to them, grab their attention and spark a response.

Knowing who wants “mustard” and who prefers “coleslaw”—and letting them know you know—will dramatically increase response rates, CRM, brand experience and revenue.

You won’t get a vegetarian to eat a pastrami sandwich. Or convince a steak lover that tofu is just as good. The same holds true with mail.

When direct mail is relevant to your target, the chances are better they’ll read it and respond. That’s why it’s so important to maintain a strong customer database and use it to create relevant, personalized direct mail.

In a study by InfoTrends, “The Future of Mail 2006,” direct mail performance improved significantly with personalization. Order size/value increased 20.7%. Overall revenue/profit increased 23.4% and response rate increased by 20%.

Advances in technology make personalization techniques easy to integrate into direct mail, allowing you to make it more personally relevant and engaging for your target than ever before.

We practice what we preach.

The DM Deli personalization campaign had direct mail and online components. The creative elements reinforced the deli motif—it came in an envelope that looked like a white lunch bag with the recipient’s last name on the back of the bag. The message and call to action looked as if it had been written on a napkin and a “now serving” take-a-number ticket with a prepaid business reply card completed the piece.

We invited marketing and advertising decision-makers to build their own sandwich to demonstrate how personalized mail appeals to each person’s taste. The take-a-number ticket asked recipients to place their sandwich order by checking off a series of options. Categories were bread, meat or veggie, cheese, toppings, condiments (including mustard) and side dishes (coleslaw or potato chips).

The take-a-number insert also promoted Extreme Marketing Success, a free DVD that showcased successful direct mail personalization campaigns, including Eastman Kodak Co., General Motors Corop. and TD Ameritrade, giving marketers more food for thought.

Customers could avoid “lines” and place their order online at

All completed orders were sent by postal mail that included a photo of the sandwich built to individual specifications and named in honor of the customer who created it, a message with first name, a photo of an empty plate on the back, complete with a second personalized message, and the “Extreme Marketing Success” DVD.

The results: 5% of the direct mail recipients requested the DVD. The campaign also resulted in more than 2,100 sales leads but, given the life span of print ads, we continue to receive BRCs and online requests. Those numbers will grow.

Personalization is no longer just a salutation or a name lasered onto a mail piece. It’s a dynamic way of relating to customers based on who they are, what they like, where they live, how they spend their money and much more. Advances in variable data printing allow you to seamlessly integrate a customer database into the printing process. The result is a cost-effective, high-quality personalized mail piece that can help build business through higher response rates, greater customer retention, more sales and increased ROI.

Remember: Relevance produces engagement that leads to the desired response. Variable data printing takes you there.

Rod DeVar is manager-advertising and promotion at the U.S. Postal Service.

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