Ever Get Pizza in the Mail?

Written by Christina Vullo, Social Media Marketing Analyst at Xerox Corporation
About halfway through high school, most students begin receiving letters from nearby colleges and universities inviting them to visit, attend open houses, and apply.  While the first couple letters may be exciting, in no time they start piling up.  After just a few weeks, the student ends up throwing away envelopes and brochures by the dozen.
XMPie PersonalizationThe only way to stop the cycle is to give students a reason to look through your letter, and while there are many universities fighting over each student that’s not as impossible as you might think.
Having had a similar experience, I too was tossing out tons of college letters, but there were a few I’ve saved even years later, just because they were cool.  Among the few I’ve held onto are a card made to look like a pizza box that opens to a sheet pizza with my name spelled out in pepperoni and a cell phone with a personalized “text message” on the screen, just for me.  While both pieces were pretty different, they also had something very important in common: they caught my attention which actually got me to read through them and think about those schools.  I even displayed them in my room to show my friends and family.
So as you can see, those few personalized pieces had a much larger effect than the hundred or so other pieces of mail I threw out right away.  And when it comes to direct mail in general, it’s exactly the same.  Personalized direct mail gets you more attention, responses, and impact for your money.  By adding that special touch to a mail piece, whether it be the recipient’s name or an image of something personal, it engages that person and in turn makes him or her more excited about whatever it is you are telling them.  Most important of all, it helps you craft an individual conversation for each person instead of overwhelming them with unrelated content, and with so much mail being received every day, it’s more important than ever to personalize!  Thanks to modern technology, personalizing doesn’t have to be difficult.  Today’s personalization software allows you to add dynamic text or images to any mail piece quickly and easily with no programming knowledge.  It’s a great way to send a message that leaves an impact instead of ending up in the trash.
How do you use personalization in your direct mail campaigns to stand out from your competitors?
Comment below and you will be entered to win one of two ProfitAccelerator® Profiting Through Personalization Vol II featuring XMPie kits!

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  1. Kristen Erickson July 28, 2011 -

    This reminds me of something RIT sent out to prospective students. They made a postcard of a car driving on the highway next to a sign that said how many miles away RIT was from my hometown (in the style of a highway sign, of course!) The license plate was also personalized to say my name, and there was a bumper sticker on the back of the car with my high school’s name on it. I’m starting my senior year at RIT and I still have that postcard!

  2. Christina Vullo July 28, 2011 -

    Thanks for sharing, Kristen! Looks like RIT did a great job capturing your interest with the personalized postcard, especially since you’ve kept it all this time!

  3. Lindsay Lamb July 28, 2011 -


    When I saw your comment, I had to respond. I worked on that direct mail project when I was a print student (in the club PUB) at RIT! I still have that postcard as well, and use it as an example all the time.

    I wonder how many companies reach out to their customers to see if they kept anything they mailed to them, and why they kept it. Could be great learning when it comes to developing effective direct mail.

  4. Great points, Christina! There are several universities using personalization and cross-media campaigns to boost enrollment. Kristen, RIT is a great example. They continue to increase applicants and reduce costs with XMPie today: http://www.xmpie.com/?id=1985.

    Capitol College is another university that understands the power of personalization and relevancy when it comes to recruitment. With the help of print and marketing services provider Echo Communicate Inc., and their XMPie software suite and Xerox iGen4, the Maryland institution executed an integrated 1:1 cross-media campaign to over 20,000 prospective students. Every component was personalized to reflect each student’s name, gender, hometown and academic interests…and one of the direct mailers used the same tactic of an image of a cellphone with a personalized “text message” on the screen. Capitol quadrupled applications and doubled enrollment! Download the case study here: http://www.xmpie.com/success-echo.

  5. Christina Vullo July 28, 2011 -

    Lindsay, that would be very interesting to find out! It would definitely give companies ideas for improvement the next time around. I think they would find that personalization is a big part of it too!

  6. Christian Kopocz July 28, 2011 -

    Great to see that the educational branch in the U.S. uses 1:1 in such an effective way. We did several campaigns for corporations in Germany and at least some smaller campaigns for universities. But when it comes to the full impact of targeted and effective 1:1, for example with XMPie we stuck in internal discussions. We offer to test multi channels in a small project, but These days it seems they are all too reserved and not happy to try out new things. So it is good to read, hear and see more and more real cases all over the globe. As I believe that the more Information we continiously give to this target group, the higher is the chance that they will listen to what others in their fieldsre already doing: sucessfully.

  7. Tricia Bhattacharya July 29, 2011 -

    Christian, I’ve heard the same thing from other organizations about the lack of interest internally to try new things. I’m wondering if there is anything else we can do (as Xerox) to help convince internal decision makers of the business benefits of cross-media and personalized communications.
    Tricia Bhattacharya (Marketing Manager, Xerox Corporation)

  8. Ed Danielczyk July 29, 2011 -

    “WOW, they really know me!” Whether it is a grocery store, a department store or a university, any potential client/customer wants to feel that they are not just another number listed on someone’s database. “Know Me” if you want to “attract me” is how we all want to be communicated with today. As Xerox’ World Wide Industry Marketing Manager concentrating on the global Higher Education segment, I see numerous examples of how educational institutions are using creative personalized communication cross meida strategies to differentiate themselves from their competition. As an example, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) not only personalizes their student and alumni communications with unique text and imagery, they have been early adopters of imbedding QR-Codes which leads the targeted recipient to a unique web site providing personalized information. Another example is Bucknell University that created a financial solicitation piece targeting the parents of soon to be freshman, sophomores, juniors and soon to be graduating students. Each segment piece was personalized to uniquely appeal to that particular parent type. Imagery, messages from the school president, school dean, etc varied demonstrating that Bucknell understands the interests of the parent of their new and existing Bucknell student. These are only a few of the colleges/universities who have embraced a targeted/personalized communication strategy to attract selected students or solicit capital expansion contributions from past alumni or institution fiends.

    Personalized/targeted communications is the new “disruptive force” in the direct mail market segment and marketers need to re-evaluate their traditional approaches if they wish to be successful in the future.

  9. Christian Kopocz July 29, 2011 -

    Hi Tricia, cases are always helpful, did not Know how you handle assistance in the U.S. – Here it depends ob the Major Accoun Partne who sold the equipment. No real Input from Xerox DE. So I always try to think and have a look outside the box, what happens in UK, US and other countries. If you have ideas I would appreciate your input.

    Dear Ed, you are right: targeted communication is the future for marketers. Each day I’m more surprised how huge the lack of interest is in the range of ad agencies. We try to make them interested with workshops with live demos in house and even at their Own locations. Seems to be a mentality issue here, that they are so resistent for new ideas… But constant dripping wears the stone…

  10. Tony Pepperoni March 14, 2012 -

    Wow, you have really raised some interesting points in your blog. I know that targeted communication is the future for marketers, and I really think that some ad agencies are unwilling to accept this. I really liked how you worked Pepperoni Pizza into the article as well! Great stuff 🙂

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