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Excitement. Anticipation. Expectation. That's what marketers hope consumers feel when they receive a videotape in the mail.

Unquestionably, what a consumer sees on the videotape will be the ultimate factor in whether they will buy the product advertised. But the right packaging can make a difference in whether a consumer will even bother to watch the enclosed video.

"Everything about the outer sleeve-the graphics, the tone, the photography-has to reflect the image of the videotape that's enclosed," says Barry Johnson, president of Duplication Factory, a tape duplicator.

In other words, sending consumers a black videocassette with black-and-white writing no longer gives recipients the same thrill when opening a direct-mail piece. Bright colors, with full-length, four-color labels, help create a total image.

A vibrant yellow videocassette, with bright blue and yellow graphics, underscored the yellow of the rapeseed crop for a promotional video created last fall for InterMountain Canola.

The marketer sent out about 5,000 tapes to get farmers to grow the seed used in making canola oil.

"I can't emphasize enough to clients the benefit and value of color," says Anne Dale, sales manager at Lintel International Video Services, a tape duplicator. "It's an attention-grabber."

As of December 1994, InterMountain Canola's recruitment drive was running 38% ahead of projections, says Chris Meyer, senior account exec for Rumrill-Hoyt, Rochester, N.Y., which produced the direct-mail campaign.

The total acreage where the company's canola seed was planted grew from 1,000 acres in 1991 to 200,000 last year. InterMountain Canola recently was acquired by Cargill.

Rumrill-Hoyt also has been successful with video packages for a number of Du Pont Agricultural Products brands. The cardboard sleeve for one tape describing the Synchrony STS soybean seed/herbicide system shows a full-bleed photo of growing soybean plants. The sleeve copy asks farmers: "Are you willing to tap the power of the Bean Machine?"

"The videos, the packaging-all help reinforce other image advertising that consumers are seeing," says David Hans, Rumrill-Hoyt senior account exec. "We're getting responses in the 20% range, which, compared to the typical 3% response for direct mail, we think is a good return."

Keep in mind, too, that the size of the package is critical. An outer sleeve cannot be so big that it won't fit in consumers' mailboxes.

"Too often a package is an afterthought, and with all the competition that's out there, that can be a problem," says Ben Olson, sales manager at PrismaGraphics, which creates promotional packaging for videos. "Planning a package from the beginning of the project takes a lot of guesswork out of the final result."

Packaging doesn't have to be expensive, either. A simple, bottom-loading sleeve costs about 75 cents each for 10,000 units at Duplication Factory, on up to $3.50 each for a presentation kit that packs both the video and full-sized 81/2-by-11 inches materials in a built-in pocket.

Many marketers, acknowledging that the outer packaging is a vital component of videotape presentation, now include discussions about sleeve concepts at the same time ideas for the videotape itself are under consideration.

"Our object was to design a convention portfolio that would describe our convention facilities and hotel," says David Fine, director of sales and marketing at Florida's Sheraton Bal Harbour hotel. "The housing for the video had to capture the whole essence of our resort as a special place to hold a convention ....and we went into the project with that in mind from the start."

About 1,000 presentation packages were sent last fall; to date, the resort has heard back from 88 respondees and "a number of them have booked programs with us," says Mr. Fine. "We're very pleased with the campaign."

Walt Disney World has a three-pronged video campaign, trying to encourage families, empty-nesters and those who are "pre-family" to plan vacations at the Florida resort.

"For us, the outer sleeve had to be a reflection of Walt Disney World," says Diane McEachran, manager, national broadcast advertising, Walt Disney Attractions. "It had to be eye-appealing to our target audience, in that in the outer photograph they had to be able to see themselves at Walt Disney World."

She declined to elaborate on the campaign's success.

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