Timothy Kunhardt credits the cards.
Asked to explain the enduring popularity of Z-Cards — folded brand messages sandwiched between two hardcover panels — the president of Z-Card North America theorizes that the credit-card-like cover panels likely play a role.
He says consumers view mail with a hard cover as having “intrinsic value.” As a result, targets are reluctant to toss out Z-Cards. Instead, they wind up in wallets, glove compartments, purses and kitchen and desk drawers. “It’s incredibly sticky print,” explains Kunhardt. And perhaps this is why marketers and communicators continue to get attached.
Packed with a Punch
In recent years, Z-Card campaigns have sprouted up with steady frequency across a number of industries as diverse as finance, travel, insurance, entertainment and automotive. The cards contain information that ranges from health care benefits to geographical maps, often taking on a bevy of shapes and sizes. (For example, one company recently designed a Z-Card shaped like a dental floss container for a dental insurance program.) And just as recipients may value the covers, marketers appreciate the chance that Z-Cards afford to pack an abundance of information into a pocket-sized mailer.
Melissa Pepin, marketing communications project manager at Aetna’s Customized Communications Group (CCG), says the cards’ format allows her to present health care information engagingly.
“A lot of members don’t fully understand their health care benefits,” says Pepin, whose group specializes in helping employers explain benefits to workers. “The card is a fun, innovative way to communicate benefit information that we believe will be both used and retained by our members.”
A recent Z-Card campaign produced by CCG for a customer served as “one little benefit package for all the recipients’ needs,” says Pepin. The cards included a list of questions to ask doctors, what is covered under the plan, preventive care tips and resources for additional information. In addition, the two outer covers each had a plastic sleeve attached so recipients could put their member ID card in the sleeve on one side and their medical spending account debit card in the other.
In another case, a big-box retailer sponsored a campaign recently with Z-Card that featured offers for up to 70 packaged good items, with several different versions of the offer based on regional tastes. The outer card contained the address and a corresponding barcode for each customer in the mailing. This way, when a customer brought his or her card into the store to redeem any of the offers, the retailer was able to track the buying behavior of that customer.
Meanwhile, companies overseas are going even further, marrying the Z-Cards to QR codes. In an integrated campaign for a music festival in Japan, a media company distributed Z-Cards featuring a map of the stages, a schedule of performances and a QR code that could be scanned to access a mobile website showcasing video clips of artists and live reports from the festival. Other recent Z-Card applications include maps handed out by hotels, visitor’s centers and colleges, and schedules of events taking place at expositions.
However, marketers should still make careful use of Z-Cards, warns Kunhardt. “Marketers who think a Z-Card strategy is just folding up an ad are making a huge mistake,” he says.
Keys to Success
The key to a successful Z-Card campaign is in pairing its unique design with relevant information that a consumer will need to refer to repeatedly, says Kunhardt.
When considering the product, he says marketers should ask: “What information do you have that is important enough that people are going to keep the card and go back to look at it multiple times?”
Kunhardt says he also urges clients to consider the potential for Z-Cards in an integrated campaign, as the cards present “a low barrier to entry” into mixed media.
Of course, some communicators, such as Pepin, also appreciate the impact that printed products like Z-Cards can still have on mail as a stand-alone channel. “If a marketer has only a few seconds to grab someone’s attention, print is a great way to do it,” she says. “There is just something to be said for the medium.”
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