Co-op coupon cornucopia

MailboxFor the first time in a long time I took a few minutes to run through the Valpak co-op mailing I received last week.

After a few minutes of looking at the offers, I came up with a short list of things to consider if you’re using Valpak (or other co-ops) as a marketing channel.  The short list is powered by my own past experience and might stimulate you to think of some other ideas.

Before I get started, here’s a rundown of what I found inside.  There was a total of 43 inserts inside the envelope (which featured, bizarrely, a promotion for the television program CSI: NY on the OE and which distracted me from the 1:50,000 possibility that there might be a check for $100 inside).  I sorted the inserts into three categories:

  1. National advertisers (19, 44% of the total).  These included Netflix, DirecTV, Verizon, Omaha Steaks and others.  Of those, 4 (27%) of the inserts did not use the standard 8 1/4″ x 3 1/2″ format and instead paid additional for a heavier and/or different stock insert.
  2. Regional/franchise (8, 19% of the total).  Included here were ads for the local Gold’s Gym, Kaiser Permanente and Molly Maids.  Of these, only 1 (12%) of the inserts deviated from the standard insert.
  3. Local advertisers (15, 35% of the total). These ranged from local dentists to home improvement providers to Anthony’s, a restaurant down the street–which included some coupons that might finally get me to take the family there!.  Only 1 insert (7%) strayed from the Valpak standard format.

Valpak ran one house insert, promoting an offer of $350 to target 10,000 homes for new advertisers, a CPM of $35.

We can immediately see some ideas, just from this basic sort.

The national advertisers, who have the biggest budgets for testing, are behaving differently than the smaller advertisers.  They are much more likely to use a heavier or different-sized insert than the local advertisers.  This is a great idea, as those ads, including ones from Dunkin’ Donuts, Discover Financial Services and Netflix were more likely to fall out and be noticed.  As those ads were also larger, they had more room for promotional and offer copy and, in the case of Discover, provided a full credit card application.

Very smart and our key takeaway from the national advertisers: Don’t be afraid to ask for and pay for extra weight and different formats.  In a cluttered environment such as a Valpak envelope, it’s critical you stand out because you’ve only got seconds before the promotion is trashed.

I did see some flaws with the national advertisers.  While Omaha Steaks–a quality direct response marketing-led organization–provided a promotion with strong offer and call to action, Verizon provided a piece completely devoid of an offer. (See my Featured article on Monday to see more about Verizon).

While the local advertisers tended to use the standard Valpak format, I noticed that they were much more likely to have heavy use of offer- and benefit-laden copy.  Words such as “Free” and coupons (complete with dashed lines) featuring the savings amounts were very common.

On the other hand, the local advertisers creative tended to be weaker.  They were somewhat more cluttered and, in some cases, it was difficult to see the offer pop from the page.  This is possibly the case of the advertiser trying to save money on creative by either using a Valpak standard format or using a very inexpensive agency.  The takeway here is don’t scrimp on the creative, once you’ve taken the plunge to buy the media provide a compelling offer.

When was the last time you looked through your co-op mailings or Sunday supplements?  Taking a few minutes to sort through them might help you uncover some interesting new ideas for those media or for others.

Summary and takeaways

  1. Vary the stock and size of your promotion when in a competitive environment like a co-op mailing.  While it will cost you more, it’s even more important that you stand out in these types of media due to the low open rates.  Check your competition and test what you’ve seen them do.
  2. Don’t scrimp on the creative.  Yes, it’s a low-response medium, which means that you’ve got to watch the costs closely, but because of the short attention span it’s critical that you don’t hide your offer by making it difficult for the prospect to quickly see what you’re offering.
  3. Test two inserts.  None of the advertisers in this mailing had two pieces, but I’ve seen strong success by inserting two pieces.  Best of all–if you can manage it–is two inserts of unique size/shape/weight, at the front on either side.  You’ll pay significantly more for this trick, but it almost always pays for itself, as you’ll got noticed regardless of which side the prospect looks at first.

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