Transpromo: What Coattail Are Marketing Messages Riding?

By | August 21, 2008

According to an article I recently read by InfoTrends, 63% of customers prefer promotional pieces over purely transactional documents. For this reason, “incorporating promotional messaging in transaction documents can both boost the appeal of a transactional document and generate a higher read rate for the marketing message.”

When I read this, I had to stop and think about that again. Putting a promotional message on a transactional document can “generate a higher read rate for the marketing message.” On the surface, this makes sense. Use something people like more (promotional messages) to boost readership of something people like less (transactional documents).

But as usual, I had to re-think it in a contrarian way. You are hitching the more desirable (the marketing message) to the less desirable (the transactional document). In some ways, you could argue that, by doing so, it’s like putting flat tires on a sports car. Of course, you could argue the other way, too, and that’s what is being done here. Bills have nearly a 100% open rate. You can’t say that about most direct mail, even highly personalized direct mail. By attaching the marketing message to the transactional document, you are increasing the chance of eyeball exposure.

I guess what struck me was its over-simplicity. As analysts and consultants, we are prone to blithe and pithy statements that make great pull quotes. But we need to be careful not to over-simplify.

I mean, another way to put this is that, if you’re talking about transpromo credit card statements, for example, and if credit card statements irritate people (which they do), you’re hoping that your marketing message catches the coattails of something that people fundamentally don’t like and that irritates them. Those marketing messages better be cheap to add!

It’s just another way to look at it. I’ll be available for tomato throwing later

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4 thoughts on “Transpromo: What Coattail Are Marketing Messages Riding?

  1. Michael Josefowicz

    Heidi – You raise a great point.

    Maybe one way out is to consider the frame of mind of the person who is getting the credit card bill.

    For example, if the person runs a large balance at golf stores and pays on time, it might be a good moment to present some ads for a high end golf clubs from an exclusive outlet.

    On the other hand, If the person is late in their payments and has been getting later, it might be a good moment to present a credit counseling service or a program to deal with dealing with a sub primer mortgage situation.

    The neat thing about a credit card statement is that by analyzing the content of the statement you can get a pretty good idea of the mindset – at that moment – of the “eyeballs.”

    Irritation can often be a great selling opportunity, if you offer a real product or service that can scratch the itch.

  2. Heidi Tolliver-Nigro Post author

    Good point! But here’s the counterpoint — what you describe is exactly the kind of “serendipity factor” (a phrase used by Richard Romano, but I don’t know whether or not he coined it) that is relied upon by high-volume, undifferentiated direct mail. Marketers will never get away from serendipity entirely, of course, but it just reinforces the point that it’s important not to over-simplify such things.

  3. Michael Josefowicz

    Fair enough. We both agree that it’s important not to over-simplify.
    But on the other hand……

    I sort of agree that “Marketers will never get away from serendipity entirely.” but my take is that as analytic software gets smarter and cheaper, accidental successes will get less and less.

    My bet is that the analytic software that Google uses to deliver contextually accurate ads or the Amazon recommendation engine could be re focused on the trans promo problem.

    A quick search of “recommendation engine” at Google delivers 12 sponsored links. All with software that someone alleges does part of the job. I won’t be surprised, but don’t know for sure, if some version of these are already being used in the database publishing ( transpromo or VDP) sector.

  4. Clint Bolte

    One of my take aways from this month’s TP Summit in NYC was the necessity of the ancillary message being very relevant to the specific recepient. And this is not always easy to do. However, one speaker made the point that an education message is rarely offensive and typically received with good intention. Perhaps a good way to begin, before broaching a cross sell or up sell advertisement.

    The second key point is that there must be desciplined analytics following each campaign to ascertain the affectiveness of the message. Surveys clearly conclude that few analytics are being used following TransPromo campaigns.

    I read Heidi’s point as being a caveat for messages that might make sense but result in being offensive. It takes practice and measuring feedback.

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