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Case Study: Cartoon Boosts Paid Response by 78% for Outdoor Life Magazine

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Case Study: Cartoon Boosts Paid Response by 78% for Outdoor Life Magazine

    Over the years, I've been lucky enough to create many record-breaking campaigns for marketers, using the magic of cartoons.  They really do offer an unfair advantage, because people are irresistibly drawn to read them and because they almost always provide a welcome pay-off -- a chuckle.  But if marketers are looking to convert that into an unfair advantage in their campaigns, they must first understand how cartoons work and how easily their magical effect can be killed off.Stu_Heinecke_blog_inset_2-2-14.jpg


    The number one mistake marketers make with their use of cartoons is injecting it with their brand, offer or both.  It's an understandable mistake, because most marketers tend to focus on brand and offer in their messaging, but savvy marketers know we really should be focusing on the audience's needs, wants and experiences, and how our solutions can add value to their lives.  


    The same thing applies to cartoons as marketing devices.  Pushing a cartoon on our audience that is simply about ourselves is a tin-eared approach to marketing.  Sending a cartoon that highlights the desires or pains the audience experience, without hawking our products and services, assures them we understand what they're going through.


    One of the best illustrations of this is the subscription-acquisition direct mail campaign we did for Outdoor Life magazine.  In the cartoon (see inset), you see two fishermen on the dock, one holding an enormous fish in his arms, the other saying, "That looks like the one ((insert name)) threw back."  Notice the cartoon said nothing about the Outdoor Life brand, nothing about subscribing, nothing about saving XX% off the newsstand price.  Just a singular focus on each recipient's love of fishing.  Brand and offer certainly do have a place, which is in the accompanying copy.


Challenge:  Create new test campaign to compete with previous control, determine if audience is more responsive to hunting or fishing-themed offers.


Solution:   We created two side-by-side test campaigns, one featuring a cartoon with a hunting theme, the other with a fishing theme.  In each case, an 8" x 10" suitable for framing print of the cartoon was offered with paid subscription orders.  Copy was brief, to the point, making it clear that recipients would get their print premium when they paid for their subscriptions.


Offer:  Risk-free trial; 70% off newsstand price; personalized cartoon print premium upon pay-up.


Results:  The hunting-themed cartoon panel beat previous control by 35%, but the fishing cartoon pulled even better, with a 65% boost in front-end response and 78% more paid response than the previous control. 


Takeaway:  Although this was a mailed test, the same applies to e-mail campaigns -- focus on the recipient in the cartoon, not yourself.  


    In my book, Drawing Attention (free e-book version available for Constant Contact members, along with a free test of our cartoon device in your e-campaign), I use the example of a fictional poster sent by Miller Beer.  I pose the question, "If Miller Beer sent you a poster that said, 'It's Miller Time, ((insert your name)),' what would you do with it?"  Even though it has your name in it, the poster is solely about the Miller brand and has nothing to do with you or your life.  I expect you'd toss it in the trash like an old sock.


    Keep that in mind the next time you use a cartoon in your campaign and you're tempted to use it to highlight your brand or offer.  It won't get tossed like an old sock, because that's not what people do with irrelevant e-mails.  They just ignore them, which ultimately weakens your brand and kills subsequent open rates.



About Stu Heinecke


Stu Heinecke is a DMA Hall of Fame-nominated marketer, one of The Wall Street Journal cartoonists, author of Drawing Attention and Big Fat Beautiful Head, and Founder and President of CartoonLink, a marketing service dedicated to bringing an unfair advantage to marketers through the magic of cartoons.  Would you like to double your open rates immediately?  Put CartoonLink's "cartoon device" to the test in your campaign for free.

Stu Heinecke
Host of Contact Marketing Radio
Founder & President of "Contact" and CartoonLink, Inc.
Wall Street Journal cartoonist
Author of How to Get a Meeting with Anyone