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This Job Is on the Bag

December 2005
It’s become widely accepted that formulas for success in variable data marketing include focusing on big ticket items, developing ongoing campaigns and targeting the top tier of customers that are regular buyers. Paxar Americas, working with Dayton, OH-based Early Express, found that opposite approaches can also be effective in meeting a specific need.

[The Proposed Solution]

Having ended up with a surplus inventory of shopping bags, the Ohio-based supply house to retailers decided to do a direct mail campaign targeted to customers who only order supplies every few years. It started by generating a list of companies that had purchased retail shopping bags during the past three years, then removed buyers that had recently placed an order. The remaining prospects were sent an oversized, full-color, glossy postcard.

The cards presented each customer with as many as six different line items for possible reordering, all of which were products previously ordered by that recipient. Paxar’s product line includes more than 6,000 items used in the day-to-day operation of a retail business. To close the deal, the card also contained a call to action that directed buyers to place an order via a Website, call to a toll-free number or by filling out the reorder feature of the card and faxing it back to Paxar.

[Variable Data Elements]

The address side of the card included details of each customer’s last purchase, complete with product ID. This data was set up by a question personalized with the recipient’s name, such as “Jill, is it time to reorder?”

Variable content was also directly used to help sell the product by incorporating company names into the images of the shopping bags shown on the front side. The same personalized question (i.e., “Jill, is it time to reorder?”) was repeated as a graphic element, along with the company name, on the image side of the card.

Finally, an alphanumeric code was imprinted on the card that customers could provide when placing orders to receive free shipping. This helped Paxar track a response generated by a card.

[How It Was Produced]

Early Express primarily used an HP Indigo Press 1000 digital color printing system to produce the pieces. After the cards were printed, though, they were UV coated on one side using an ABDick 385 Pro sheetfed press to enhance their appearance and to provide protection from marring in the mail stream. The layout was created in QuarkXPress, then HP Indigo Yours Truly software was used to add the personalized elements. The mailing list was processed with Accuzip software.

Early Express provides variable data services, printing, mailing and delivery, as well as graphic design. It specializes in helping clients improve their direct marketing efforts.

[The Results]

More than 2,500 cards have been sent out since the marketing program was initiated in October of 2004. With a 7.34 percent response rate, Paxar Americas has received some 200 orders that it attributes to this marketing campaign.

Myron Rheaume, the company’s marketing manager, says he has been pleased with the outcome. “For every 35 cents we’ve spent, we’ve made 65 cents profit. The yield on that promotion was a 65 percent gross return,” he reports.

These results were far better than the company’s previous promotional response rate, Rheaume adds. A 7.34 percent response rate is unheard of, he says, especially since Paxar traditionally had only been able to achieve response rates of less than 2 percent.

“The combination of our offer, along with the excellent production and graphics provided by Early Express, contributed greatly to this success,” he notes. Rheaume believes that including the previous order information was likely the key to getting such a high response rate with this project.

In light of the success it enjoyed in this effort to mine previous customers, Paxar Americas has been exploring other prospects for future direct mailing campaigns, according to Rheaume. Variable data will be an integral part of its tactical marketing plans going forward.

This case study was derived from PODi’s annual Best Practices in Digital Print research, the largest collection ever assembled of successful digital printing projects. PODi is an industry initiative with hundreds of member companies including executive board members EFI, HP, IBM, Kodak, Pitney Bowes, Quark and Xerox. Membership in PODi is open to most organizations involved in digital printing. For more information on joining PODi or submitting your own case study, visit

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