Porsche was looking for a new way to drive. Hoping to spark interest in — and sales for — its new line of SUVs, the German auto manufacturer last year enlisted a global supply chain services provider to help fashion a high-tech direct mail campaign that delivered the driving experience to motorists’ mailboxes. All recipients had to do was take the mailer for a spin — in their PCs.
That’s because the heart of the campaign wasn’t a letter or card, but an optical disc that recipients could pop into their computers for an immersive online exploration of the vehicle’s newest features and design.
But the campaign, aimed at North American buyers, wasn’t just a step forward for Porsche. It also signaled the emergence of what appears to be an increasingly popular tool among many major marketers these days — DiscMail Direct,™ a brand introduced this year by the DiscMail Direct Coalition (DMDC).
The growing group of DMDC members includes arvato digital services, Cinram International, Fusion 92 and Sony DADC, among others in the optical media, packaging, creative services and direct mail industries that are all committed to providing a consistent, comprehensive approach to direct mail marketing using optical discs (DiscMail) as the vehicle.
DiscMail bridges the gap between direct mail and digital
Hailed as “direct mail supercharged,” DiscMail is a new breed of branded, web-enabled DVDs and CD-ROMs being delivered to consumers via the mailbox.
Unlike earlier incarnations of disc marketing, such as the once-ubiquitous discs that helped popularize a major Internet service provider in the 1990s, DiscMail offers a tremendously rich media experience. The pieces combine razzle-dazzle packaging, print materials (cover letters, glossy brochures) and customized optical discs stuffed with content such as exclusive video, MP3s, personalized messages, smartphone apps, PDF files, high-resolution photos, free downloads and web links.
“You have to hit people from all sensory perceptions, because everybody learns differently,” says Matt Murphy, founder and executive director of digital marketing agency Fusion92. “Print alone can’t do that. Web is limited by bandwidth. That’s why we feel this is the killer application that bridges the gap and fosters dynamic engagement.’’
Proponents say that the discs can deliver increased response rates, improved ROI and a premium engagement experience at bulk mail prices.
“In the case studies we’ve reviewed and the research we’ve done with the DMA, we haven’t seen anything less than 10 percent in terms of response rate,” says Guy Finley, DMDC director. “When you put a disc in the mail, engagement rates automatically go up to double digits. It all comes back to that perceived value. The customer is getting something special. They’ll even pass it along.”
DiscMail offers incredible analytics options
Thanks to advancements in disc technology and storage capacity, DiscMail discs let companies precisely track and measure how consumers are interacting with their discs in real time. This gives businesses unprecedented power to customize, segment and target their messages.
“Unlike traditional direct mail, I can tell a marketer if someone opened their disc,” Murphy says. “I also can tell them what specific sections they looked at, and if there were any purchases or interactions — all because the disc has analytic tools built in, just like a website.”
Finley recalls a lifestyle company that made a surprising discovery while tracking views of its 2009 DiscMail mailer. “It found 80 percent of the people who reviewed the discs were going straight to a specific section of the magazine it publishes,” he says. “The company never really had those analytics before. So it shifted its messaging in the next campaign to start promoting this section more. This medium lets you gauge the effectiveness of all your existing direct mail campaigns.”
Proponents liken DiscMail to a high-tech handshake that links direct mail, optical discs and online media. “The misperception among businesses is, ‘I’ve got a website, why do I need this?’” Murphy says. “DiscMail augments and supports your existing online strategy. It acts as the vehicle to potentially engage offline folks in a digital brand experience.”
To date, a variety of major companies and smaller businesses have used disc mailers. Further, these companies are reporting impressive results. Mercedes-Benz, for example, published the results of a recent DiscMail initiative: With 80,000 units shipped, its campaign registered a 19.02-percent online usage rate, and a 7.19-percent registration rate, including opt-ins for future campaigns.
Finley estimates that marketing companies shipped 150 million to 200 million disc mailers in 2009. He expects that number to rise dramatically in coming years, thanks, in part, to the formal launch of the DMDC at the 2010 DMA convention.
“One of our goals is to capture 1 to 2 percent of the direct mail market,” Finley says. “We would love to mail a billion discs within the next two years.”
DiscMail technology works for businesses of all sizes
Experts insist that companies of nearly any size can leverage the technology. Moreover, although the discs contain information that can be accessed without the Internet, its proponents urge marketers to blend the mailers into a broader multimedia strategy.
“DiscMail keeps the consumer in your channel,” Finley says. “It provides a seamless Internet experience without driving the customer to search, or to a competitor’s website.”
Murphy has been working with disc mailers for more than a decade. He says one key to success with DiscMail is to create compelling packaging. “You have to get that recipient to stop, read it and be compelled to put it into the computer,” insists Murphy. “If you don’t do that, then it doesn’t matter what you put on the disc.”
He encourages brands to provide an intensely sensorial experience. “Some people are auditory, so you’d better have audio and voiceover to guide people,” Murphy advises. “You’d also better have text so that people who prefer to read can understand what the offering is with the visuals to support the message. And it’s always better to have some interactive component so that people who learn by clicking on things can engage that way.”
Porsche, Bosch campaigns demonstrate how direct drives digital
Nobody has the market cornered on best practices in disc marketing yet, as the field is still evolving. But the discipline has already produced its pioneers, among them members of the DMDC steering committee.
In 2007, Sony DADC developed eBridge, a source-coded technology that allows for tracking, click-through and personalization of disc mailers. Months later, Sony DADC was showcasing the technology in a 2007 Porsche campaign promoting the Porsche 911.
So in 2009, when Porsche again enlisted Sony DADC to create its second DiscMail initiative, both companies had learned from experience and went about tailoring the program accordingly. “For instance, the brochure pages have been dramatically decreased, and the importance of the DVD has increased this time,” explains Christian Dankl, director of business development for Sony DADC.
And although disc packaging is critical to a campaign’s success, Dankl says Porsche also learned to concentrate information on the disc itself, not in the packaging. “The idea behind that is, people are more likely to play the DVD and take a look at the product than respond to the call to action somewhere on a cover letter or brochure,” Dankl says. “It is highly involving, highly engaging and exciting the consumer with the product. Then it’s completely tied in to the online world.”
The mailer was finalized in about six months and includes a five-page brochure with disc pocket and a cover letter. The enclosed personalized disc greets recipients with a digital cover letter featuring a photo of the Porsche Cayenne and punchy copy.
Clicking through the DVD, the recipient is treated to a behind-the-wheel video presentation that replicates the high-velocity rush of a racetrack test drive. Clicking further, a prompt-tagged “models” lets recipients view specific details about the entire Cayenne series. Another prompt takes recipients to the Porsche Cayenne website, and a “Colorator” tool lets consumers view the Cayenne model of their choice in any available color, including exterior and interior views. Finally, the disc also has a feature that takes recipients to a prefilled data page that dispatches their information to Porsche with a single click.
Meanwhile, in the best tradition of direct mail, the Cayenne initiative’s call to action remains simple, clear and forceful: Buy this car. “It’s about sales,” Dankl says. “It’s customer acquisition, sales and certainly mindshare for the new model and the hybrid. And obviously, there’s a little brand development involved.”
The Porsche campaign was only one of a number of campaigns in the United States and abroad that have taken advantage of DiscMail. For instance, Stuttgart-based power tools manufacturer Robert Bosch GmbH hatched an ambitious plan to create a branded B2B social network.
Dubbed “BOB,” the network would allow craftsmen to share knowledge and contribute reviews and opinions of Bosch products, and would give users access to other exclusive services. Only one problem: “The handymen were not reachable by search marketing, and Bosch had no e-mail addresses for them,” Dankl says.
To help Bosch get the results it wanted, Sony DADC advised the company to use personalized disc mailers as a sort of exclusive “VIP pass” that would serve as the sole point of entry for anyone interested in joining the BOB community. To facilitate the smoothest registration process possible, Bosch would employ the same one-click, personalized registration page as the Porsche campaign.
The resulting disc mailer provides a seamless physical/digital experience. An enclosed print cover letter makes the pitch. Translated from German, the letter opens cordially: “Sometimes there is nothing better than a recommendation from your coworkers … that’s the reason we have launched BOB, the professional community of Bosch.” The letter goes on to trumpet the benefits of joining BOB, including craftsman-to-craftsman communications, exclusive services and direct communication with skilled Bosch experts, plus participation in exclusive Bosch product tests before they hit the market.
Following video introductions and a clip highlighting advantages of joining BOB, the DVD features a “Products/Tests” prompt that clicks through to the company website. There, consumers are immersed in graphics and details on hundreds of Bosch products. “DiscMail is not competing with your landing page or website,” Dankl says. “So you probably spend 30 seconds with the cover letter, then a few minutes with the disc, and the rest of the time at the Bosch website.”
The initiative officially rolled out in January 2010, when Bosch began shipping the disc mailers to prospects throughout Germany. More than 276,000 pieces have been mailed to date.
The campaign is still active, but an indication of the initiative’s success is evidenced by the fact that Bosch is planning to extend the campaign throughout Europe.
“DiscMail is a great tool if you want to convert your mailing addresses into e-mail permissions within a short timeframe,” says Christoph Bühlen, senior direct marketing manager of Bosch Europe.
Dankl believes the Porsche and Bosch campaigns underscore his philosophy that direct is driving digital. “I have a strong opinion that marketers have to increasingly look beyond the digital horizon,” he says. “If you have a target group you would like to address and you want to convert them into the digital communication channel, search is not an option. It is not targeted enough. That’s where I really believe our product fits. It’s mail, and it’s also the best way to get your target group engaged with online.”Small Business, Technology