"Here's a launch control that makes me almost believe that the traditional (read time-tested and known-to-perform) creative approach is on the upswing."
A Bumper Crop of One
Here’s a launch control that makes me almost believe that the traditional (read time-tested and known-to-perform) creative approach to subscription packages is on the upswing.
But I’m an eternal pessimest, so I’ll need to see a few more like this one before I relax.
The Taunton Press mailed this oversized (11 1/2” x 6”) package in search of charter subscribers for its new magazine, Kitchen Garden. This is a textbook example of a full-dress piece, comprising an outer envelope, four-page letter, lift letter, order form, reply envelope and four-color brochure. It was written by Josh Manheimer and designed by David Wise and Taunton staff members Wendy Bowes and Kirstin Heiden. The size is out of the ordinary for Taunton, which usually goes with 6”x9” packages, according to corporate CD Doug Newton. Newton reports that the package did significantly better than a test package in the traditional size, and was only a bit more expensive.
The outer is two-color—black and green—and it stands out because of its size and bold copy that promises a risk-free charter invitation. More large copy on the back urges prospects to “RVSP for a Premier Issue.” As would be expected for a magazine that combines the two interests of gardening and cooking, the brochure and order form use four-color to maximum advantage, giving prospects a true feel for the editorial product. It opens up to a spacious 21 ¾” x 17”, permitting the use of lots of attractive photography.
(It’s a real pleasure to see photos large enough to enjoy without pulling out a magnifying glass!) This component does its job by pulling readers along to the order card and reinforcing the offer with a tag line on the inside spread that says, “To get your Charter Issue risk-free—-mail RSVP today!”
The four-page letter from publisher Roy Swanson features an illustration of tomatoes near the headline. Although illustrations can make a letter seem less personal, this one ties in nicely with the first line of the copy: “Dear Gardener, If you love biting into juicy tomatoes from your own garden, or serving fresh pesto from basil you grew yourself…If you’d like to know about new, tastier varieties of lettuce, new recipes you can make with your strawberries, new tactics to keep bugs from ravaging your melons…If you’d welcome tips and advice from other gardeners like yourself who get deep satisfaction growing herbs and vegetables bursting with flavor and nutrition…then you’ll love the exciting, new magazine from The Taunton Press.”
The letter goes on to describe the magazine’s content, clearly stating its benefits to prospects. It does a fine job of making the magazine sound helpful and friendly, with copy like this: “More than just a magazine, the pages of KITCHEN GARDEN will feel like you’re sitting around the kitchen table swapping seeds, recipes and ideas.”
The lift letter from president Roman reinforces the offer and lets the reader know that Kitchen Garden will be like other Taunton magazines: “beautifully illustrated, stunningly photographed and chockfull of helpful information you’ll enjoy digging into.” Clearly, Taunton has managed something that has so far eluded larger publishers: It has established a strong corporate brand name that, in combination with its database, is a powerful weapon in cross-marketing new extensions. Every piece in the package mentions Taunton Press or includes the Taunton magazines logo. This is typical of all Taunton direct mail, according to Newton, who notes that subscribers of the company’s Fine Gardening are prime prospects for the new title.
The package’s order card is L-shaped. (Judging from my swipe file, this is still working, so there’s time to try it in your next test.) The outers offer says, “YES! Please send me the premier issue of Kitchen Garden RISK-FREE and enroll me as a Charter Subscriber. If I like what I see, I’ll pay $24 for a one year (6 issues in all) subscription. The copy continues below: “OWE NOTHING! If, however, I choose not to subscribe, I’ll simply write ‘No Thanks’ on your invoice. I’ve spent nothing. I owe nothing. I can keep the premier issue regardless. SEND NO MONEY!”
Why not promote the trial copy, which is part of the six-issue subscription, as a “free” issue, as many publishers would? Taunton believes in “selling” the magazine and selling it hard—not selling the offer,” says Newton, who adds that, “as a company, we’re not comfortable with the free-issue approach.” He also confirms that this interesting modification of the soft offer helps on the back end.
Finally, the order card includes a list rental opt-out, and that’s sure to please prospective subscribers. Good for Taunton.