Valued Walgreens Customer, Thank You…Signed Emily

Personalization is all the rage. Personalized emails; personalized web experiences; personalized direct TV ads, personalized direct mail…

But targeting a customer with a unique individual offer, based on a granular analysis of their digital footprint, isn’t the only way to bring a personal touch to marketing. With the assistance of Hallmark Business Connections, and some creative thinking, Walgreens were able to build on existing customer loyalty simply by sending a thank you card.

And the execution was simple, said Tressa Angell, President at Hallmark Business Connections. “It’s what we do. Emily had the data and she had the passion. She had the tone and the idea.”

A warm, human message

Emily is Emily Miller, category manager in the Consumables Division at Walgreens — at the time, managing the greeting cards category. Emily wanted to reach out to the very best buyers of Hallmark cards within the Walgreens Balance Rewards Program, and reward them further.

It all started with a “flip comment,” Miller told me. “I was really very thankful to our best customers, and I said ‘I wish I could write them a thank you card.'” Hallmark’s reaction, she said, was: “Wait a minute, I think we can do it.”

Loyalty program data allowed Miller to identify 1 million dedicated purchasers of Hallmark cards. Hallmark Business Connections worked with her to tailor the design of a card to her personal style, with a message reflecting — Angell said — “an authentic human touch and emotional value.”

Note: There was no attempt to direct unique messages to each of a million shoppers. There was one message, but, as Angell put it, “it was so well though-out and warm.” (Read it above.) The card also included 5,000 bonus loyalty points.

The most amazing thing

Miller was involved in the creative process, of course. “I like to write at least one card a week,” she told me, and for this message she looked for a card she would have chosen herself. Also — and Miller and Angell agree that this was key to their success — Miller used her own work return address. In other words, the card came from a human being, not from a major retailer. “That was the icing on the cake,” said Angell.

“The most amazing thing started to happen,” Miller said. She started receiving replies: “Thanking me for my thank you card.” Many of the responses were heartfelt, even moving, and Miller answered a number of them. She is still corresponding with some of the customers. She recalled that a senior executive had once told her that the brand’s job was to “create loyalty beyond reason.” And that’s what she feels she accomplished here.

Real results

Redemption of the bonus loyalty points exceeded forecast. The campaign generated an estimated $1 million in incremental sales. (Walgreens did not seek to measure results for total basket, only redemptions within the category promoted.) The success prompted campaign extensions; for example, a subsequent card featuring a spoken message from Miller on a sound chip, which played as the card was opened.

Within Walgreens, Miller has moved on. She’s now responsible for the beverage category, but hasn’t yet come up with personalization ideas specific to drinks. “I try to think of them every day,” she told me. “Authentic, meaningful ways to reach the customer. I’m sure I’ll find the right way to get there.

How to Execute a Direct Mail Campaign

Many marketers are great at generating direct mail ideas and building creative and strategy, but when it comes to execution, it fails. Why is that? For the most part it is because there are no educational opportunities for execution, only for strategy. So how can you combat that to execute an excellent direct mail campaign?

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Print: A Tangible Way to Invigorate Your Marketing Strategy

With so much focus today on digital marketing, how can print fit into your campaigns? And is the medium even relevant anymore? Yes, it is, according to an infographicby Vistaprint Corporate that explains print’s role in today’s digitally focused world.

The infographic looks at the psychology behind why consumers still respond to print, the comparative response rates between print and digital, and more. Among the key statistics the infographic cites are these:

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Five Direct Mail Myths About Millennials

Millennials are glued to their phones and other digital devices, right?

Not so, says an infographic by US Presort. The direct marketing company reviewed data about how Millennials engage with digital versus offline marketing campaigns and found that this generation is responsive to direct mail.

For instance, 84% of Millennials look through their mail on a regular basis, the infographic says, and Millennials are more likely than other generations to share what they see in the mail with other people.

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Maximizing Direct Mail Success Through Design

Marketers have been absorbed in digital these last several years. Digital has all but eclipsed direct mail, but things are changing. Mail remains a powerful channel for ROI, especially for older demographics. However, younger marketers likely aren’t getting much direct mail experience these days.

With that in mind, we caught up with Cliff Rucker, SVP of sales and customer relations at USPS, to discuss some of the basics of direct mail, and how marketers go about setting up direct mail campaigns through the postal service.

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Better Together: Print and Digital

Tran was explaining how the messages Valassis delivers on behalf of its clients, in both paper and digital form, drives savings to American consumers. “They have a real impact on the products and services they choose to purchase.”

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Study: Donors React To Direct Mail More Than Email

“There isn’t enough reverence for the written word these days,” is a refrain shared among college professors, newspaper editors, coffee-shop poets, and direct marketers for nonprofit organizations. In the latter’s case, however, the numbers don’t quite back up the cry.

In fact, donors say that they are slightly more likely to read a piece of direct mail from an organization (37 percent) than an email (35 percent). About a quarter (28 percent) are not more likely to read one over the other.

The statistics come from “The Donor Mindset Study III,” a collaboration between Grey Matter Research and Opinions 4 Good. The companies surveyed 1,000 donors on a variety of preferences they might have concerning email and direct mail marketing and found that paper holds several advantages in areas such as ability to communicate story, facts, and information.

Donors believe that direct mail is better at telling a touching story by a clip of 38 percent to 23 percent. Among younger donors, the two are tied but the difference creeps up with age until reaching a 47 percent to 13 percent advantage among donors ages 65 and above. Gaps similarly expand as donor income constrains. Donors with household incomes of $100,000 or more find better stories in direct mail at a 36 percent to 30 percent rate while direct mail leads 40 percent to 17 percent among households of $40,000 or less in earnings.

More than one-third (37 percent) of all donors think that direct mail beats email (32 percent) when it comes to conveying facts, but the difference is segmented among age and income groups. Donors under the age of 35 prefer email at a difference of 48 percent to 31 percent. Donors between the ages of 35 and 49 see no discernable difference. Older donors ages 50 to 64 and 65 and older, however, prefer direct mail for facts 37 percent to 24 percent and 46 percent to 20 percent, respectively. Direct mail is also preferred by donors giving less than $100 (45 percent to 21 percent) before closing for mid-tier gifts and flipping in favor of email for gifts of $2,000 or more, 44 percent to 29 percent.

Where the good news runs out for direct mail is when it comes to the downsides between the two. More than one-fifth of donors (21 percent) have a set preference for email as compared to 16 percent of donors who favor direct mail.
One-third (34 percent) of donors indicate that they are more likely to be annoyed by direct mail than email while only 28 percent are more annoyed by emails. The difference is most pronounced among donors under the age of 34 where 45 percent of donors are more likely to be annoyed by direct mail as compared to 24 percent with email.

Direct mail is also more likely to be placed into the “round file” — waste bin — with 41 percent of donors more likely to toss an unopened piece of mail as compared to 26 percent of donors who are more willing to delete an unread email. Paradoxically, among those who are more likely to read direct mail, 34 percent also responded that they are more likely to discard an unopened piece of direct mail than an email. One fifth (20 percent) of respondents that prefer email are also more likely to ignore emails.

The takeaway, according to Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, is that very few donors have an overwhelming preference for email over direct mail or vice versa. Just 6 percent of respondents preferred email across all six factors measured in the survey as compared to 4 percent who held an overwhelming direct mail preference.

“There are some in the industry who preach that older donors simply won’t accept digital communication, or that young donors reject traditional direct mail,” Sellers said in a release.  “While different ages do lean toward one method or the other, most donors are quite accepting of both methods.”

Coating on Forever Stamps Mimics Textures of Real Sports Balls

This summer, The U.S. Postal Service  will release another first-of-its-kind interactive stamp, but this time, the stamps will depict our nation’s favorite pastime(s) — sports. The Have a Ball! Forever stamps will be available nationwide on June 14 and will comprise a 16-pane sheet with two stamps each of basketballs, baseballs, footballs, golf balls, kickballs, soccer balls, tennis balls and a volleyballs, according to the USPS  press release
USPS forever stamp football

However, these round stamps aren’t your every day, run-of-the-mill Forever stamps; they will mimic the feel of real sports balls. The press release describes the stamps as featuring textures mimicking:

  • baseball’s stitching;
  • golf ball’s dimples;
  • tennis ball’s seams;
  • soccer ball or volleyball’s textured panels; and,
  • the different raised patterns of a football, basketball and kickball.

USPS forever stamp golfballMark Saunders, senior public relations representative at USPS, told Printing Impressions in an email that the high viscosity, UV coating that was used on the stamps creates a feeling “similar to an emboss with a tactile feel.” He explained that the coating was applied “using a laser-imaged flexo plate coupled with a high volume anilox sleeve” as a spot application.

The idea for the stamps came from a pool of 40,000 stamp suggestions that the USPS receives every year, according to Saunders. Saunders explained in an email the process taken to choose the subject matter of the stamps:

“These suggestions are reviewed by the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee and brought together as a stamp issuance working with the Committee, USPS contract art directors and the Stamp Development Postal Service staff. Working together, we strive to create stamps that are interesting, engaging and reflect the best of America.”USPS forever stamp tennis

USPS is encouraging customers who buy the stamps to share them on social media with the hashtag #Haveaballstamps.


How USPS is Using Video to Create Modern Mailing Experiences

The USPS has officially launched a technological effort to modernize the mailing experience by utilizing Pitney Bowes EngageOne Video, a customer engagement solution, for its Informed Delivery campaigns.

With the help of the EngageOne Video platform, the Informed Delivery campaign can integrate the hard-copy mail with a digital experience, by delivering a daily preview about what is headed to their mailbox and providing interactive links with details about the content of the mail.

“For example, a senior in high school may receive hard-copy mail from a college, along with an email providing a link to personalized content,” says David Schwartz, U.S. vice president of sales at Pitney Bowes.

The Informed Delivery notification not only generates a coordinated impression for the intended recipient, it also provides potential additional impressions for other members of the household.

These videos provide marketers and brands with an opportunity to develop a greater relationship with mail owners, whether they are home or not.

“In the past, it was hard to reach those mail owners who were always on the go, if you were a hard-copy mail marketer” says Schwartz. “However, with the delivery service, we give marketers an unprecedented chance to engage consumers and expand their reach.”

Engagement is further encouraged at the end of each video with a call-to-action, where brands can offer mail owners the opportunity to set up meetings, phone calls, or other modes of further communication. The response to Informed Delivery on EngageOne Videos, so far, appears to be successful, as the campaign has reported the following numbers:

  • Initial response rate (shared publicly) was 25%, with 79% of those viewers watching the core message (about 4 minutes of content)
  • 38% watched all the way to the end (5:30+ minute videos)
  • 28% interested in creating a campaign leveraging the technology

Informed Delivery is a nationwide program available for residential mail customers who sign up at It is not currently available for mail delivered to P.O. boxes.

How direct mail is winning in the age of the internet

Snail mail and the postal service are big business. Every minute, the USPS processes 353,000 pieces of mail! In total, they don’t just service the United States – they handle almost half of the whole world’s mail. Besides the letters and government mail, there’s a lot of advertising or direct mail that goes through the USPS. They actually operate their own program called “Every Door Direct Mail.” In this infographic, we’ll show you just how big direct mail is. You might think that email and digital marketing have completely replaced physical marketing, but you should think again – every year, big businesses spend billions of dollars just trying to reach customers like you. 

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