Jan. 29 2007 01:42 PM

Direct mail advertising campaigns that use custom-printed Post-it Notes on the outside of envelopes or on cards have now established an impressive track record. You have been following developments regarding the new concept in this magazine. What have been some of the results and how effective have they been? The application was approved by the U.S. Postal Service in April, 2003, to spotlight coupons, enhance promotion teasers, highlight special offer reminders or champion toll-free numbers and Web site addresses. Two marketers and 3M share the results of four campaigns.


Repositionable notes (RPN), a popular tool for the inside of direct mailpieces, magazines and newspapers, call attention to and make it easier for the recipient to save key information for later use, such as a phone number, a sales deadline or ordering information. After a year of pilot tests, the USPS is convinced that these RPNs, modified to withstand handling in the mail, remain intact and do not hamper the mail handling process. (Regulations for applying Post-it Notes outside envelopes are found in the Postal Service Domestic Mail Manual under section C810 or, for more information, visit www.usps.com/repositionablenotes.)


For marketers who use the mail for advertising and promotions, another result of the test cases will prove more interesting. RPNs boosted the response rate by up to 37%, according to USPS research, without adding to the amount of postage required. In some market tests, RPNs boosted response by as much as 53%.


The Medical Management Institute, in Alpharetta, Georgia, doubled its response rate in a test drop of 77,000 pieces in August, 2002 and again in a second drop of 60,000 a few months later. The organization, which provides educational materials to physicians and their staffs to help them more effectively manage the business side of the practice, replaced its traditional four-color direct mailpiece with a less costly black-and-white letter with First Class postage and an RPN on the outer envelope. Using 3M's trademarked "canary yellow" Post-it Note, the RPN included Medical Management Institute's toll-free number, the Web address and ordering information for the instruction manuals.


Bobby Keene, president and marketing manager of the Institute, said they received a lot of positive feedback from customers about the RPN. "About one in 15 commented on the note," he reports. "Many said they stuck it someplace so they'd have an easy reminder of the number to call and the ordering information. Even 10 months after the drop, we were still receiving orders from the mailing."


Keene adds that they planed to do four mailings in 2003, instead of the usual two. Although the use of the Post-it Notes adds some cost, he said, the net cost of the mailing was about $12,000 lower because they were able to eliminate the need for four-color printing without sacrificing impact. "The bottom line is that a less costly mailing drew about twice the response. The decision to continue using RPNs with more mailings was an easy one to make," he adds.


Another test of RPNs by a major regional bank yielded similar results. Charlotte, North Carolina-based First Charter Bank, with assets of $4 billion, operates 53 financial centers, five insurance offices and 93 ATMs located in 17 counties throughout the Piedmont and western half of North Carolina. The company wanted to convince automobile owners to refinance their outstanding car loans with First Charter at a promotional low-interest refinancing rate. They identified their target market as car owners with outstanding loans in excess of $7,500.


In the spring, a direct mailpiece went to prospects that included existing bank customers and non-customers. Six months later, a follow-up mailing went out as a "Last Chance" reminder. An RPN calling attention to the office was affixed to half of the second mailing. Customer and non-customer groups were divided into two equal test groups to allow a true comparison of the response.


As expected, existing customers had a higher response rate. But the mailing with the RPNs scored nearly 53% higher than the non-RPN group, jumping from 2.1% without the RPN to 3.2% from the group that received the mailing with the Post-it Note attached outside.


Among non-customers, First Charter elevated its response rate by 40% with the RPNs. The group that received the mailing with the RPN had a 0.7% response rate, versus a 0.5% rate from the mailing without the notes.


Joe Arundell, senior vice president, Direct Marketing Manager at First Charter, said 60% of the nearly 850 new auto loans generated by the mailing came from the groups that received the RPNs. "It was an excellent marketing investment," he notes. "For $3,200 to enhance the mailing with RPNs, we generated $46,200 in incremental interest income over an average loan cycle of 24 months."


Patrick Peick, market development manager at 3M for Post-it Direct Response Products, anticipates strong interest from advertisers as word gets out about the products and its early success. "Direct marketers in innumerable industries now · have access to a new and impactful option," he says. In addition to banking and publishing, Peick envisions use of the concept by direct marketers in travel, retail, non-profit fundraising and healthcare industries as well as window installation, roofing and rug cleaning businesses, to name a few. 3M applied the RPNs on its mailings to generate traffic to the Direct Response Products booth at both the Catalog Conference and Direct Marketing Association trade shows. Recip-ients who visited the booths were to receive a free Post-it Note dispenser at the former event and a free gift box in the latter one. Peick reports that the redemption rates ranged from between over 15% to just under 20%, respectively.


Peick added that 3M worked closely with the USPS research and development team to adapt the Post-it Note technology, to make it acceptable to Postal Service operations and, at the same time, be user-friendly to the graphic arts, letterpress and printing industries. Post-it Notes were modified to come on rolls for ease of application, with a wider adhesive strip for better adhesion. "Of 10,000 envelopes with Post-it Notes on them, sent to 45 participants in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, 99.75% arrived intact," he reports of a test. They had been dropped in both California and Florida over 60 days. The award-winning concept and 3M team behind it received a USPS Spring 2003 National Postal Forum's direct mail industry Special Achievement Award.


"RPNs open up opportunities for advertisers, while generating new potential revenue streams for allied industries," Peick adds. "This is a tool that offers an efficient, cost-effective enhancement to mailings for a wide range of marketers."


As for the future, Peick plans to test the use of the Post-it Note outside envelopes of different sizes.


For more information, please visit them at www.3M.com/market/office/directresponse or call 800-610-6947.


Post-it and the color canary yellow are trademarks of 3M. Application charges will differ from market to market and volume discounts will significantly decrease the per-piece cost of the printed repositionable Post-it Notes from 3M. On a run of 100/m, an advertiser might expect to pay from 2.5 to 3.5 cents a piece.