What We Think About When We Develop Test Creative

28 July 2020 / By Jeff Tarran
Reading time: 4 minutes

As a rule, response to a creative execution deteriorates over time. That makes it imperative for regular mailers to adopt what we call an overarching ABT creative strategy—Always Be Testing. 

The primary goal of an ABT strategy is to find a new creative control. But smart marketers also embrace the secondary goal of creative testing—testing into new creative that can be added to the mail stream, that can maintain and extend the overall ROI of the mail program. Maybe not a creative winner, but a winner for the overall business.

There are a lot of articles and blogs out there about direct mail creative testing. Most of them are “how-to’s”, or examples of what to test. But this one is different. Here, we are presenting our thought process—how we approach creative testing projects. We initially developed these thoughts for “beat the control” situations, but they apply to any DM creative testing scenario.

 

  • Getting the mail opened is the #1 priority. Think hard about that first impression. In that short walk from the mailbox to the recycling bin, your mail has to make someone think that something of value—or importance—is inside your piece.
  • The times—they are a’changin’. In the world of marketing, timeliness is next to godliness, so be sure to consider any reason why people might perceive your company/vertical and/or mail as a channel differently than before. As we publish this during the Covid-19 pandemic, that sounds like an obvious point. But even in normal times, new products, competitors, or other environmental factors could give you something new to say.

  • Test major stuff before you worry about tweaks. Or, to put another way, explore new copy platforms before you rearrange the bullets. 
  • Address objections. Spend time thinking through why people who know you and your category don’t buy. Then, consider creative ways to overcome those objections, or even turn them into a positive. Pro tip: Interview customer service team members—overcoming objections is their job.
  • What else are you saying, and where? Do a 360° review: your website, online ads, social media, events, etc. Are there messages in a brand’s other channels that resonate with prospects, that can also be applied to direct mail?
  • Until you know better, keep controls in place. Don’t trash what you know for what seems like a great idea—you might be wrong. Your controls also serve as a benchmark for gauging new creative performance. 
  • If it’s close, retest. See our secondary goal of creative testing above. Tinker with this creative to boost performance.
  • Look into segments on the back end. Determine if a particular creative has a unique appeal to a smaller group—that could lead to valuable marketing segmentation strategies, in addition to a new control.
  • Be open-minded. Resist the temptation to be dismissive of an out-of-the-box creative approach. Understanding the insight behind it could lead to something.
  • Reposition offers. We know offers drive response. Especially in commodity categories, think about new ways to message around the offer.
  • Test digital integration. Not technically a creative test, but consider how the offer and messaging will play in digital channels. Then, target mail prospects to boost impressions and track response.

One final thought: Testing makes you smarter. I’m referring to the process itself. Thinking through how you communicate with your target is always a good thing. Just one more reason to ABT.

 

If you’d like to learn more about our unique approach to ABT, our Pillars Messaging Platforms (and how we can apply them to your business for message testing), or how we structure tests, drop us a line.

Jeff Tarran
About The Author

Jeff Tarran

As VP of Account Services, Jeff works with our clients to analyze business problems and develop direct marketing strategies that achieve their goals. A 20-year veteran and strategic thought leader in direct marketing, Jeff has headed two independent direct response agencies in the Bay Area after starting his career at Foote Cone and Belding. He earned a Dual BS in management and communications at Syracuse University and his MBA in marketing at Columbia University in New York.

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