Direct marketing: 'It's a classic. It works'

Among hundreds of direct mail packs, there are a few that really stand out from the crowd.

We asked four industry insiders to choose their all-time favourite mailshots.- Stephen Pidgeon, chairman of Tangible Response, chooses Help the Aged's 'ophthalmic' packIt's a classic. The piece of opaque plastic, held up to the eye, simulated having a cataract. The proposition was simple - remove the plastic from in front of your eye and you can see again. For an elderly person in India, a simple operation costing£12 could do the same with a cataract. So your £12 makes a blind man see. How brilliant is that?For me, this pack is an all-time winner. It was created in 1988 by my agency at the time and served as Help the Aged's cold control recruitment pack for 10 or 12 years. Then we got hold of it at Target Direct and gave it a male/female makeover: we rewrote the copy from the original three-page, classic charity, discursive (and largely female) style to much shorter, almost bullet-pointed copy designed to attract even the most obdurate of men.Lo and behold, the response rate from men went up by just under 70 per cent and, as the new style depressed response from women by only 10 per cent, it became the new control.The proposition was so clear and simple. Machine-enclosable and cheap to produce, it made for a perfect cold mailpack. - Geraldine Cetin, marketing manager, acquisition, RNLI, chooses a Cats Protection pack from February 2003I've been a regular donor to Cats Protection since 2003 and a supporter since 1993, and have been really impressed with how the charity has changed over the years.The letter opens with a 'thank you' and acknowledges my current donation. It recognises my current donation correctly, and the date when my donations began. That's a powerful reaffirmation. The tone is very personal. For example, the donor form asks "would you mind us calling you?" It is trying to capture my phone number, but politely and tactfully.The back of the letter uses space cleverly. Most mailings leave this blank, but here they've chosen to fill it with the charity's vision statement. The creative theme is about rehoming older cats. It has a new and different angle on an existing message about rehoming. Here the charity positions itself almost as the Help the Aged of the cat world - a great new slant.Everything about it made me think "who did that?" It just works.- John Cole, marketing manager, PDSA, chooses Samaritans' 'suicide' packOne of PDSA's challenges is attracting new high-value supporters, and a favoured approach is to use case studies with positive resolutions. That's why this cold mailing struck me - it echoes some of PDSA's values and uses case studies to get the message across very powerfully.Cold mailings are the most difficult to justify in terms of investment and return, so it takes a brave client and an agency with a strong idea to make it work. With this campaign, Samaritans has done just that. By alluding to not just one taboo but two - death by suicide - the mailpack stops readers in their tracks. The creative twist is that the people featured died of natural causes, because they were prevented from killing themselves many years before.Using compelling imagery and cracking copy, the mailer draws the reader in. By putting the message on the front that, thanks to Samaritans, Julie Greenward died of a heart attack, the mailer demands to be read.

The charity requested £100, assuming people would give less. The average donation, however, was £82 - four times higher than the average donation via direct mail.

-  Geraldine Cetin, marketing manager, acquisition, RNLI, chooses a Cats Protection pack from February 2003I’ve been a regular donor to Cats Protection since 2003 and a supporter since 1993, and have been really impressed with how the charity has changed over the years.
The letter opens with a ‘thank you’ and acknowledges my current donation. It recognises my current donation correctly, and the date when my donations began. That’s a powerful reaffirmation. The tone is very personal. For example, the donor form asks “would you mind us calling you?” It is trying to capture my phone number, but politely and tactfully.

The back of the letter uses space cleverly. Most mailings leave this blank, but here they’ve chosen to fill it with the charity’s vision statement. The creative theme is about rehoming older cats. It has a new and different angle on an existing message about rehoming. Here the charity positions itself almost as the Help the Aged of the cat world – a great new slant. Everything about it made me think “who did that?” It just works.- Ken Burnett, managing director, Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration, chooses the Operation Raleigh packI heap so much of all that's squeezed through my door into the recycling bin that it's a challenge to find anything worthy of the description 'favourite'. But a quick check on the SOFII shows that I'm now spoiled for choice.I'm going to choose one that breaks all the rules and is more about format than content. The Operation Raleigh toilet paper mailing has understood its cause and its audience perfectly. It's simple, direct, audacious and uncompromising; soft, but very strong. The charity's founder, John Blashford-Snell, writes to captains of industry on his expedition's last piece of toilet paper to say "we need money for more supplies".Who could resist? Not even the hard hearts of corporatedom, it appears, because the mailing worked. This isn't surprising. It's sensibly different (how did fundraisers ever buy the idea they must all look the same when they write?).

It's irreverent. It's unavoidable. But it’s most promising ingredient is that he also used it to say 'thank you'. Brilliant.

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