One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Albert Einstein:
“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”
I thought of this quote often this past week as I worked through updated audience profile studies for a number of our clients.
We’ve done dozens of these analyses over the last year across our nonprofit and publishing client base. One overwhelming theme continues to emerge with each one– current direct mail strategies are driving responders who are old… and getting older at a rapid rate. A recent analysis gives a good picture of the response differences we have been seeing across the board:
A simple read of the graph shows the 70+ audience at 20% stronger response than the overall performance and the under 50 crowd at 40%+ below. These are performance gaps we have seen across the board. In fact, I did a quick straw poll of over twenty such analyses we did over the last year and all but one showed response gains of 20%+ in the 70+ audience, and at least 20% below in the under 50s.
The composition of the mail volume for these mailers is also revealing. The same client who had a 40% drop in response for under 50s, had a mail volume break-out like the following:
15% of the mail volume performed 40% below the campaign average. The overall straw poll had ranges of mail volume in the under 50 crowd between 10% and 25% across the board. Pretty significant numbers of subpar responding mail volume being mailed over and over. Back to the Einstein quote, seems a bit insane to be pumping expensive Direct Mail dollars into an under-performing audience doesn’t it?
Now, I’ll qualify my statement a bit. I don’t think it’s crazy that mailers want to reach and cultivate a younger audience. From a market growth perspective, it’s actually a sound marketing strategy. Look at the census population statistics and you can see why it’s an attractive group:
The insanity comes in ignoring the data that says the under 50 audience doesn’t respond the same way as older audiences. But, most mailers still only send one (or perhaps two at best) control offers to the entire audience.
I’m certainly not advocating mailers turn their attention away from the under 50 crowd. In fact, I’m counseling clients to increase their investment in this group. The investment, however, should not be in mail volume. It should be in new messaging, new creative treatments, and in new channels or even coordinated multichannel efforts. If you have 15% of your mail volume directed to a low performing group, how about:
a) dropping that to 5% (still a healthy sample)
b) pushing an extra 5% circulation to higher performing, older groups
c) cutting last 5% of production, postage, and media cost and re-investing those savings in new tests targeted specifically to the under 50s
Now that would create a rational expectation for a different result. It wouldn’t even cost you more. All you’d need is just a little out-of- the-box thinking and a bit of effort/focus to come up with a new approach to a high-grown audience. That’s why we call it “target marketing.”
What was that other famous Einstein quote…something about imagination?