WGN radio wins over top advertisers with a highly personalized multichannel marketing campaign.
When Chicago radio station WGN decided to take its best advertisers out to the ball game last year, the station figured it should drive them to the Web first.
To that end, the station, which is the broadcast home of a professional baseball team, launched a colorful and highly personalized multichannel campaign that mixed direct mail and digital messaging into an engaging effort that drew some of its most lucrative advertisers to a party and ball game on the team’s 2009 Opening Day. Along the way, the station also underscored how new technology is allowing marketers to rewrite the rules of personalized campaigns.
The mailer, a 6-inch by 9-inch card die cut in the image of a baseball glove and delivered in a clear envelope, featured the recipients’ first and last names and included a call to action to visit their own personalized Web address to RSVP to the event.
That landing page dropped recipients into an elaborate baseball stadium scene containing personalized text, audio and an animated short video. In the video clip, the recipient, outfitted in a personalized jersey, is announced at the plate, hits a home run, runs the bases and watches the scoreboard light up in fireworks and spell out his or her name as an announcer calls out that name again.
“The request for a response was really a call to action to visit the personalized URL that was created for each individual recipient,” explains Frank Defino Jr., vice president and managing director for Franklin Park, Ill.–based Tukaiz, the marketing communications company that produced the campaign. “It was like watching a new movie personalized to you.”
That individual touch had a big impact. WGN sent out 300 invitations to an elite group of executives from some of its biggest advertisers, including a brewery and an automaker. The piece prompted 270 recipients to reply, a response rate of 72.3 percent.
And unlike past efforts to attract those execs, this campaign didn’t quickly slip the minds of recipients, says Defino. “In past years [WGN] had to follow up by phone with many people who had forgotten about the invitation to get their response. That was not much of an issue with this campaign,” he says, adding that the organization has already inquired about doing a similar campaign with Tukaiz for Opening Day this year.
WGN executives echo this sentiment, saying they were thrilled with the mailer’s response. “The campaign was hugely successful,” says Wendi Power, director of sales for WGN Radio. “The personalized invitations really set us apart, and our clients were very impressed with their own personalized URL (PURL) to RSVP.”
For its part, the die-cut mailer had been inspired by a baseball-themed direct mail piece that WGN had received from Tukaiz several months earlier.
Defino says WGN invested heavily in the multichannel campaign — and in direct mail in particular — because station officials felt that the campaign’s “wow factor” would quickly engage a time-pressed audience too often inundated by other marketing messages and proposals.
“There is no greater delivery mechanism out there than the United States mail,” he says. “E-mail is good for certain things, but direct mail has a tremendous effect in getting your message from point A to point B because it creates an engagement the minute they hold that piece in their hands.”
Adding image and name personalization to the WGN mailer forged an even stronger emotional connection that began the moment recipients saw the piece, Defino says: “We put them in a clear envelope so recipients could see the message instantly. They were immediately engaged because their name was right there on it.”
Audio further enhanced recipients’ visits to their PURLs. Tukaiz recorded the names of the 300 invitees so that when their Web image stepped up to the plate, the voice announced, “Now batting …” before calling the recipient’s name.
“The audio was the frosting on the cake,” says Defino. “It’s not mainstream at this point, so it’s different from anything you’ve ever seen. When someone sees this technology for the first time, their jaw just drops. It’s very cool to stand there and watch their eyes light up.”
But for all of the stylishness of the postcards and digital elements, Defino says the mail pieces succeeded largely because of their substance and adherence to marketing fundamentals.
“We still include the message, the offer, the response and the call to action,” he explains. “And we carefully measure results. All of those Marketing 101 rules that you need to follow are included in there, but we like to break those rules ever so slightly, and personalization does just that.”
Defino also says that the ability to track recipient behavior through the PURL provides added value to the strategy. He admits that some at WGN were initially apprehensive about the integrated campaign and how the assorted elements would all come together. However, once they learned how they would be able to capture data and gauge response, those fears were assuaged.
“Through the PURL,” he says, “WGN could track a variety of recipient behaviors regarding the invitation, from when they first accessed the Web site to how long they stayed on it and which links they clicked on while they were there.”
It’s all part of an effort for marketers to set themselves apart from the pack, something Defino says highly personalized mail campaigns are uniquely positioned to do.
“Whether someone is interested in the product or service being sold or not, when you use this kind of dynamic personalization, people just can’t help but look at it; it’s just human nature,” he says. “They feel compelled to look more closely and check it out.”B-to-B Marketing, Case Studies, Integrated Marketing, Large Business, Personalization