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A direct-mail program from Pier 1 Imports has been deemed good as platinum by the Direct Marketing Association.

This year's Echo Awards includes a new prize that salutes a program's longevity and efficiency. The Platinum Echo is given to the campaign that has continuously pulled high returns and remained virtually unchanged for the previous five years.

The winner of the 1995 Platinum Echo is Pier 1, along with agency Columbian Advertising, Chicago, for its "New Resident Mailing" program.

The campaign, started in April 1989 and addressing 300,000 people annually, helped the retail chain maintain its base of store credit card holders by targeting women aged 21 to 35 who had recently moved near a Pier 1 store.

Using two-a-month mailings from April to October, the retail chain hoped to entice prospects through a combination of the store's home furnishings products and the financial assistance of a credit card.

"When people move they usually have a need to do some redecorating for a room that doesn't have the right furniture or accessories," says Bart Levitt, senior VP-account services at Columbian. "Also, they're usually a bit strapped for cash because they just closed on a house or paid moving costs."

Indeed, one of the card's selling points was an immediate discount of at least 15%.

Over the five-year campaign, Pier 1 and Columbian garnered a 5% response rate-a rate that's 10% higher than previous campaigns-at an average cost of $6.98 per response.

What's more, these new cardholders turned out to be frequent spenders. They averaged $400 in Pier 1 purchases annually, and 60% of these new holders became active card users.

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