Fresh Data Blog
Fresh Data Archive
Case Study: Direct Mail vs. Email Calls to Action
Date: December, 2013 --
In this Fresh
Data Case Study we will review how a nonprofit tested the effectiveness of
direct mail versus email calls to action within the same campaign. The results
of the campaign will be broken down by medium with respect to the effectiveness
of both direct mail and email messaging in generating not only response but in
their ability to resonate with those receiving each type of communication. This
case study is presented by Data Services, Inc. in cooperation with our friends
at the Prescott Report.
Post studies scientifically whether direct mail is a more cost-effective method
of moving people to action. Last month we showed how an electric utility used
the Danish Post test methodology to prove that it would be paid faster and at
less expense using paper invoices rather than digital invoices.
The Danish Cancer Campaign did something
similar, but with an added research element to measure recall and opinion
The Campaign is
a charity lottery with cash prizes up to 1 million Danish kroner ($185,000). This
lottery constitutes a substantial portion of its operating budget and is known
as the "Harvest Lottery", since it occurs in the Fall.
In 2010 the Campaign wanted to determine which
media would be most effective in reminding addressees that the annual lottery
was occurring and, of course, to drive action.
of 2000 each were selected from the Campaign's database of registrations in the
previous lottery, which numbered some 200,000 participants.
of these 200,000 files was sent a written invitation to participate in the
annual fundraising event. The physical mail pieces included an envelope
containing a letter, a promotion folder and a giro form. The latter is a form
of direct money transfer in common use in Europe containing bank money transfer
instructions which the money sender completes with details of the amount and
his own bank account for debiting.
after the letter was sent, reminder messages were sent to the test groups via email
or as a physical mail.
1 had given the society email permission.
They received an email reminder.
2 had also given email permission, but received a reminder letter through the
3 had not given email permission and they received a reminder letter through
It should be
borne in mind that in Denmark communications via email of a commercial nature
require affirmative opt-in and the authorities are extremely strict. Even
fundraising approaches by nonprofit associations are considered commercial in
nature and are not exempt from the regulation.
The content of
the reminder letter and email and its creative were different from the first
letter. In order to encourage participation and recall, recipients of the
reminder communication were given additional lotto numbers. The piece was also
somewhat more understated. The physical reminder was a plain envelope
containing an opener encouragement: "We will win." The envelope also
had an opener enticement on the back stating that the Society received only 7%
of its income from public funding, underlining the critical importance of
interviews were conducted with the test targets to determine recollection of
the first and second communications.
In regard to
spontaneous recollection, letter mail showed overwhelming power. Only 25% of
Group 1, who received the email reminder, recalled receiving the reminder email. However, 58% of group 2 and 55% of group 3
spontaneously recalled the reminder direct mail letter.
prompting, groups two and three had better recall of the reminder letter than
the email community, recalling at 85% and 80%, respectively, against 63% for
the email recipients.
Timing & Impact
It also appears
that the call to action of the letter is more powerful than an email,
especially when repeated. 12% (Group 1), 24% (Group 2) and 29% (Group 3),
respectively confirmed they had reached their decision to play only after
receiving the reminder letter. In short, the direct mail letter produced twice
the response of the email reminder.
conclusion is a powerful one. The
interviews and the reaction of the public disclosed that the public opinion of
the Society’s campaign was that it was trustworthy, meaningful and informative.
Test results indicate the respondents preferred receiving a physical direct
mail letter to an email. In the words of the report of this campaign, "Direct
mail signals care, trustworthiness and seriousness. Since it is considered personal, it is a
media well-suited to charitable lotteries."
a consequence, the Cancer Campaign has elected to continue to use direct mail
as the core of its communication to donors.
to Data Services, Inc. to ensure your domestic and international direct mail,
and email, programs reach your intended target and demonstrate to your audience
those values you wish to project.