Using Data to Develop Informed Creative


Author: Mike Dietz, Executive Creative Director and Laura Karels, Lead Designer

Ultimately, the goal of any direct mail piece is to pique a consumer’s interest, but also leave them wanting more. This is where informed creative comes into play.

When a piece of mail is in a consumer’s mailbox, there are two steps that need to be taken to achieve the desired outcome. First, it must garner the attention of the consumer to be opened. Once that occurs, it needs to convince the consumer to take action, whether that’s a phone call, typing in a unique URL, or scanning a QR code.

Getting the consumer to the point of taking action requires thoughtful strategy behind the design and copy of the piece – allowing the data to inform influence the creative strategy.

Knowing your audience means being able to resonate with them better. But the only way to do that is to know your data.

Subtle Changes Can Make Big Differences

Every target demographic is different, so why wouldn’t your direct mail reflect that? Writing for different target audiences require a good amount of nuance. This is when having a strong copywriter who knows how to add in those subtle changes that make all the difference for who you’re speaking to.

Let’s say you’re an insurance company and you want to reach those of retiring age as well as those who are just starting their families, that’s people in two wildly different life stages. While the entire structure and copy doesn’t need to change, reordering the bulleted benefits in a way that puts the most important to them first is a way to capture attention. The retired couple might not be looking for the same elements of a health insurance plan as a young family with three children.

The same goes for imagery. While you don’t need hundreds of image options, having a few that reflect who you’re sending to is helpful. You’re more likely to open something that looks like you.

Understand Your Consumer’s Barriers

Another important aspect to know about your audience is what might keep them from taking action. Identifying potential barriers is key. Once identified, address it in the copy right away. Going back to the insurance example, some people might not want to switch insurances because they think it will be too complicated and you’ve lost them before they even read the offer. By stating that the insurance company will eliminate all the pain of switching, you’ve helped overcome their hesitations.

Move the Needle

Ultimately, figuring out what elements will move the needle for your consumer are what’s most important. And you guessed it, infusing data into your creative strategy provides you with the best opportunity for success. At Nahan, our Designers work seamlessly with our Data and Strategy teams to develop informed creative that gets the job done.

A Guide to Direct Mail Testing Today

Testing is a key component of any successful direct marketing program. The most impactful direct mail marketers are constantly testing creative, lists, and offers, which enables them to make marketing decisions armed with more insight.

We have found that testing means different things to different people. Clients approach it in a variety of ways.

In this white paper, we provide an insiders guide to effective direct mail testing for programs of all sizes and across industries. It doesn’t matter if you’re just getting started with testing or a seasoned pro, our guide will provide you with actionable insights you can implement today.

Learn how the four phases of the testing process work together to drive optimization.

  • Research
  • Pre-Testing
  • Testing
  • Post-Campaign Assessment

If you’re ready to test smarter and drive ROI for your program, fill out the form below for the full guide to direct mail testing today! 

Playing Offense with Format Rotation 

Author: Steve Schoenborn, Account Executive


Everyone has a favorite season and for me, it’s fall. I enjoy the cooler weather (especially after enduring a hot summer), the comfort of jeans and a sweatshirt, the changing colors, golf, and especially the long-awaited football season. Now you might be thinking, “what does football have to do with direct mail format rotation?”

When it comes to football, do you ever get frustrated with your favorite football team’s offense because you feel like the plays they run are too predictable? When the plays are the same time and time again, the defense knows what’s coming, and when that occurs your team’s chance of winning is greatly diminished. The same occurs when format fatigue sets in for a mail piece.

What is Format Fatigue?

When marketers send the same piece of mail to consumers, again and again, format fatigue sets in. Once a consumer has seen the same mail piece multiple times in less than a 6-month period, they most likely don’t even open it. They’ve seen it before, know what to expect, and they no longer give it attention. This can be avoided when marketers build up their offensive strategy with format rotation.

What is Format Rotation?

For marketers that mail frequently to the same audience, developing and rotating a stable of control formats is critical to reducing package/format fatigue. Although it’s difficult to pin down specific industry statistics, we all know that format fatigue is real and measurable. As a result, we typically recommend a testing process to develop multiple effective controls that, at minimum, vary in some physical fashion. For example, a strong rotation for a monthly DM program could include a #10 package, a 6 x 9 package, a folded self-mailer, and a monarch-sized package.

Methods of Format Rotation

As mentioned above, the physical size of a mail piece is one way to switch up the format design. Other options include alternating imagery, messaging, as well as switching from a branded design to blind or a sophisticated design vs. promotional. Rotating the controls from one mailing to the next will help keep your audience’s attention and entice them to interact with your direct mail. Changing the look and feel of the content is also recommended. You can change the layout of the content by moving the sidebar, changing the look and/or location of the offer and changing the call to action, etc.

Marketers don’t have to call trick plays to be successful, but sometimes you need to mix in a reverse or a play action pass or a screen pass to keep the defense honest. Just be smart, follow testing best practices to establish a solid rotation of controls, and keep your audience on their toes.

If you’re looking for help in developing and/or expanding your rotation of controls, the Nahan team is here to help. Reach out today!

Pillars of Direct Mail

Author: Mike Dietz, Sr. Creative Director

I have been developing direct mail for more than 20 years. That’s right, before the digital age changed the way marketers connected with their customers.  To some, direct mail seems like an ancient marketing tool that should have gone out of style like pay phones. So why is it still such a critical channel for so many successful marketers today? The answer is simple…it works.

Creating direct mail campaigns in 2021 is dramatically different then creating them in 2000, but there are two pillars that remain the same and are the cornerstones to successful campaigns.

Get noticed.

The first pillar is the ability to create a physical piece that will stand out in the pile of mail that we encounter each day when we return from the mailbox.  We want to create a mail piece that makes it to the next round of scrutiny and not one that takes an express trip to the recycling bin never to be opened.

I want you to think about your personal process of sorting mail, what causes you to keep or to toss? How do you perceive size and weight? How do you interact with flashy promotional packages compared to simple plain envelopes with very little information on them? Unfortunately, there isn’t a black and white answer when it comes to selecting a creative approach. There are proven tactics that aid in the development of a successful mail piece, but each project provides their own set of unique factors. Brand recognition, audience, offer, budget and competitive pressure all contribute to the creative strategy that help shape the final product.

Convince me.

The second pillar is the challenge of motivating someone to engage.  To read or at least scan the contents of package and spark a desire that the product or service will save them money, create a sense of security or make their life easier.

Offer, benefits, and understanding the barriers that influence the consumers decision making process, make up the core considerations of messaging and positioning. These factors are driven by data and what we know about our audience. Much like the challenge of getting a mail piece opened, there is no magic answer. There are proven best practices that can be followed to establish a solid platform that you can build from.

Harder than you think.

Direct mail creation is hard. To be successful, the piece needs to capture the consumer’s attention in a short period of time. The wonderful thing about this channel is that everything is measurable. The other amazing thing about direct mail is that it will never be perfect. Ongoing testing is the lifeblood in developing consistent and healthy programs. Understanding what is working (and not working) is critical. Testing insights need to be strategically leveraged to improve controls or develop innovative creative challengers.

Experience Matters.

As you can see, there is a lot to think about when you take on a direct mail project.  Life in the world of direct mail is never boring; each day brings new challenges and new puzzles to solve. I haven’t even mentioned production or postal requirements. I will save that for another blog.

5 Advantages of Working with Nahan as a Direct Marketing Agency

Author: Melissa Fransen

We have many exciting things happening at Nahan!

In January, we announced an expansion of our services to include a full omnichannel suite of direct marketing services, including strategy, creative, data, analytics, and more! These new services are being offered as needed a la cart style or in a fully integrated approach. Where you need help, our team can plug in and bring our expertise to take your direct marketing initiatives to new performance levels.

For many of our customers, our business relationship will remain unchanged and we are proud to continue our relationship as a trusted print partner. For others, these new resources bring forth a whole new world of opportunity.

Our team has been thrilled with the buzz we’ve been getting in the marketplace regarding our new services and the excitement we’re hearing from our customers. We want to say thank you for all of the questions we have received thus far. Keep the inquiries coming!

Here are 5 advantages of working with Nahan as a Direct Marketing Agency.

1. We Are Direct Marketing Strategy Experts

For over 50 years, Nahan has been known as a world-class printer. We know direct marketing production inside and out. We know best practices, what works, postal efficiencies, and much more. With our strategy offering, we can work with your team to optimize your entire direct marketing strategy and/or plug in where needed. Here are some examples of topics you could expect us to cover and ultimately address:

  • Discussion of your current direct marketing go-to-market strategy
  • Understanding your top-line goals and provide recommendations for helping you achieve and exceed them
  • What do successful KPIs look like for you?
  • Introduction of omnichannel and integrated tools to provide incremental response and lowered cost per acquisition
  • What is your data strategy?
  • How we leverage a test and learn approach with data and creative to continually improve results

2. We Bring Design/Creative Expertise

When it comes to the design of your next direct marketing program, our design experts are at your service. Whether it’s building an entire campaign from scratch to helping with new, efficient format ideas, we bring an unsurpassed level of creative expertise to your direct marketing projects. We can help with design, copywriting, personalization, versioning, best practices, and more! Here are some examples of things we’d likely cover in a design/creative review:

  • Understanding your audience
  • Understanding what’s worked and hasn’t in the past
  • What is the action you want the recipient to take?
  • Reviewing the developed creative brief
  • Offer and supporting benefits development
  • Optimal design and content placement
  • Copy that engages, makes an emotional connection, and prompts action
  • Accommodating differences in how readers consume content
  • Communicating your unique selling proposition

3. We Can Help with Your Data, Targeting, and Analytics

Whether you are a seasoned direct marketer or are just getting started, our team can help with your data and targeting strategies. From list research in identifying your best target audience to predictive modeling tools, we love to help our customers with their data/targeting strategies. Topics surrounding data and targeting would include items such as:

  • Understanding your target market
  • Reviewing current and introducing potential new sources of data
  • Leveraging sophisticated analytics to boost response, cut costs, and lower cost of acquisition
  • Understanding your current CRM strategy and how we can enhance it
  • Leveraging your customer and prospect data to further enhance personalization

4. We Bring Analysis Experience

Once the mailing gets to the recipient, our team is equipped to step in to help you analyze results of your direct marketing campaigns. Examples of items we’d analyze include:

  • KPIs and what they tell us
  • What can be learn from what worked and what didn’t
  • Go-forward testing recommendations

5. We Take What’s Working (or Not!) and Build Upon It

The best part of working together is that you will realize . . .

Request a Quote

Are you interested in learning more about our direct marketing service offerings? Reach out and contact us today!

Bio: Melissa Fransen is our Marketing Manager. She started with Nahan in May of 2017. Melissa is responsible for Nahan’s marketing initiatives, which includes everything from conference planning to social media initiatives. In her spare time, Melissa enjoys spending time with her husband and enjoying time in the outdoors with family and friends.

How To Build an Effective Direct Marketing Strategy

Author: Alan Sherman, VP of Marketing Strategy

How many times have we in business or marketing heard the word “strategy?” or “strategic?” or “strategic direction?”  It’s one of those common business buzzwords that we hear all the time, but when it comes to direct marketing, what does “strategy” really mean? Merriam-Webster offers up several definitions of “strategy,” but the one I think is most relevant to direct marketing is “The art of devising or employing plans towards a goal.” After all, successful direct marketing strategy requires effective planning – putting the components of a winning program together.

From Our Perspective, What is Strategy?  

Nahan provides Strategic Planning, which is most simply about enabling clients to achieve their direct marketing goals.  This means improving direct mail gross response, while lowering cost without corresponding drops in response. This can be a challenge, as adding package components, increasing package size or paper quality will often lift response, but add cost. Ultimately, improving upon both response and cost leads to an improved cost per acquisition and superior return on marketing investment. So how do we do this?

A Step by Step, Rigorous Approach Gets Results

We recommend initially approaching this from a macro level. Who will we target and why? If we are focusing on direct mail, what kind of package format is needed? What does our creative and messaging need to look like? What are our target metrics?

The answers to these questions can be found in a step-by-step approach to direct marketing performance improvement. We suggest beginning with a marketing assessment to best understand everything that has been done in the past, from creative, targeting, cadence and offers to the competitive landscape.

Based on our knowledge of data and analytics and an analysis of the marketer’s data, we will likely propose specific types of data and the right predictive analytic tools for data testing. On the creative side, although budget is usually a factor, when we can test more than one creative, we create more opportunities for success.

Finally, based on what we see in the data and from our knowledge of direct mail creative best practices, we design the creative, with the target audience in mind. The data analysis tells us quite a bit about our prospects. We develop messaging, the package design, articulate the offer, supporting benefits and Call to Action.

How Strategy is Rolled Out Against Data, Analytics, and Creative

The available universe is determined. Because we take a “test and learn” approach, a test plan that minimizes risk while testing creative, data, and analytics is developed. When results come back, we measure them and make recommendations for further improvements in targeting and creative. Feeling more comfortable in what works, we can invest more dollars in reaching more people, often expanding to an omnichannel campaign, particularly where we can simultaneously target the same direct mail recipients with online campaigns, can substantially lift results further.

A subsequent results analysis leads to additional improvement – ideally, a never-ending improvement process. Which is necessary, given that costs like paper and postage are always rising!

The Results

We can almost always improve response through our knowledge of what creative and data works, creative and data testing, and predictive analytics. We can also test less expensive materials to bring down package costs. When we work these “levers” in the right way, cost per acquisition drops.

Questions To Ask Yourself and Your Team

What are your acquisition goals for the year? Where do you think your program is working and where might improvement be needed? Are you testing creative and data on a regular basis? Do you rotate your creative to keep it fresh and performance up? If you would like to achieve better results or simply discuss your challenges and receive suggestions, give us a call.

Bio: Alan Sherman is our Vice President of Marketing Strategy. Alan enhances Nahan’s current value proposition with strategy solutions that support new/existing client relationships. For clients, he leverages market, customer, and competitive intelligence to build achievable strategies for omnichannel marketing success. His marketing plan strategies include targeted data, predictive analytics, testing and creative that drive ongoing client performance improvement. In his spare time, Alan enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, going to concerts, watching sports (he’s a fan of the NY Giants, Boston Red Sox and Celtics) and walking the dog, even though it was just out.