Getting Past the Trash Bin: Attribution about envelope message, envelope characteristics, and intention to open direct mail
By Clinton Amos (Ph.D., University of North Texas) and Audhesh Paswan (Ph.D., University of Mississippi)
"Ultimately, without an enticing message appeal the opportunity to make a sale is potentially lost."
Source: Journal of Marketing Communications, Vol. 15(4), September 2009, 247-265.
Type of Promotional Material/Activity Tested: Consumer attributions of messages printed on direct mail envelopes and envelope characteristics -- and thus the perceived intentions of the direct marketer and about what is inside the envelope -- on intent to open a direct mailing.
Sample Population: Students (n = 386) at a major comprehensive Midwestern university as well as non-student respondents (n = 117) who were members of a web group for parents who home school their children. The gender composition of the sample was 46.6% male and 53.4% female. Note: Students are a major target of direct mail campaigns from a variety of industry such as credit cards, banks, financial services, and automobiles, thus their inclusion in this study.
Methodology: Data was collected through a self-administered questionnaire. The responses to the scale items measuring feelings towards envelope message appeals and envelope characteristics were measured on a 5-point Likert scale, anchored between strongly disagree (0) and strongly agree (5). Responses to the six scale items measuring respondent's intention to open the direct mail envelope was measured using a six item scale on a 5-point semantic scale anchored by trash immediately (1) and open immediately (5).
A total of 503 completed questionnaires were collected. After removing incomplete submissions, 478 questionnaires were retained for subsequent analysis.
Direct mail envelope messages communicating:
- importance (e.g., 'confidential', 'first notice')
- urgency (e.g., 'offer expires soon')
- potential price incentive (e.g., 'are you paying too much', 'no fees')
- potential non-price incentive (e.g., 'sweepstakes', 'coupon inside')
- exclusiveness (e.g., 'preferred customers only', 'special offer')
gratitude (e.g., 'we appreciate your business', 'thank you')
Direct mail envelope characteristics:
personalized (e.g., handwritten name and address, a stamp, return address is for an individual)
official (e.g., designed to create a feeling of 'something important and non-trivial)
- standardized (e.g., addressed to the recipient in an impersonal way)
- Recipient's intention to open the direct mail envelope
Top Line Results:
Out of the six envelope message appeals only three were shown to have significant association with the intention to open the direct mail envelope, and those were messages that created a feeling of importance, gratitude, and an anticipation of non-price incentive.
- Messages that created a feeling of urgency, exclusiveness, as well as anticipation of price incentive did not exhibit a significant association with consumers' intent to open the direct mail envelope.
For envelope characteristics, all three factors (e.g., personalized, official, standardized) have significant positive effects on envelope opening intention.
Complexity rating: 2 out of 3 (Complex statistical analysis scale: 1= none, 2= moderate, 3 = difficult)