These Self-Mailers Miss the Mark

Self Mailers feature

Self-mailers have persuasive cost benefits, but decades of testing have shown they simply don’t deliver the yields magazine publishers seek. And these two particular self-mailers break another key rule: All About Me.

Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car is the more workmanlike of the two, whereas the art gallery production from Auto Aficionado is, well, slick.

Sports & Exotic Car: Trifold 4C self mailer 8 X 16 with die cut bounce-back BRC. Offer: free trial issue, opt-in for 11 more for $12.

SEC’s value proposition is clearly stated: Free Trial Issue. All it takes is a yank of the bounce-back card, into the P.O., and a trial issue is in the works. The piece is nicely produced and photos include an Aston Martin DB4GT, project Ferrari Barchetta, and a handful of mundane rollers. (I wonder if the auction firms that supply so many photos to publishers see any royalties.)

Whether you’re rich or poor, SEC is for you. Okay, clever subliminal messaging, but DM can’t afford to be subtle. Copy is jammed with clich├ęs and features-driven prose in place of effectively stated array of benefits. To wit…

  • A NEW Monthly International Collector-Car Publication from Hemmings!
  • Classic Speed and Style from Around the Globe
  • Drive Reports – Buyer’s Guides – Restoration Profiles – Auction Reports

Wake me when it’s over.

The selling proposition, such as it is, does not speak in the voice of prospects, let alone move them to a commitment. Its best copy is buried in 9 pt. type while heads read like a British shop manual. The prose lacks excitement and a call to action. Phrases like “Buyer’s Guides” and “Drive Reports” put me in a Consumer Reports frame of mind. Why not Don’t Pay too Much for Your Next Sports Car? or 5 Quick Fixes to Make your Car Handle would stir the pulse.

Rumors about Hemmings’ killing SEC were rife in recent months. Furrin car titles are a fickle lot and their audiences more so. Sports Car Market has that figured out. A subsequent SEC redesign stopped short of a needed rehab of the magazine’s marketing campaign. The jury is out on whether this title will survive with soulless marketing and lack of core vision.

Auto Aficionado: Trifold 4C self-mailer 9 x 16-1/4, die-cut bounce-back BRC plus tip-in BRE. Offer: Bill me $29.95 six issues, or prepay $29.95 seven issues.

AA is a lavishly produced armchair mag for the man (or woman) who has everything. Top-notch production values and photography on cars we all know and love. The DM piece certainly reflects the magazine’s quest for the visual high ground.

But as a selling piece, AA’s self mailer is off the mark. Cover shots of prior issues together with the uninspired “If you love cars, you’ll love this magazine!” and “Are you an Auto Aficionado” do little to distinguish this mag from the teaming multitudes. Interior copy lays out a number of attractive feature spreads joined by words and phrases dull and oftentimes pretentious. The one testimonial referenced in the piece is weak, whereas specific language citing how the pub actually did something of value for the reader would have been much more effective.

I like the concept of a prepay incentive but its specific application here is flawed: Why do I want more of something when I’m not sure I want any of it? Better to juice prepays with a contextual premium.

Well, there you have it. Self-mailers have their purpose… lead generation, book sales, to name a few. But they just don’t deliver qualified subs. Despite what these two publishers’ might claim for results, they could have done much better with a sharply edited DM package. After all, postage and list rental fees are a huge chunk of total drop cost, so why send a boy to do a man’s job?

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There Are 8 Responses So Far. »

  1. That mag from Hemmings has nice packaging but the writers don’t understand what makes car guys tick. I like SCM for its skinny on the market. Sports Exotic is for newbies but maybe that’s what they want.

  2. I subscribed to A-Aficionado since the 1s tissue when it appeared to be a quality vintage car mag with articles on worthwhile classic cars. It gradually turned to modern exotics with the odd good (often very good) vintage article, either on an interesting car or in depth history of a car or racecar, with many good ( and not heard before) antidotes. The modern exotica was of no interest to me. It often appeared as a paid ad for Porsche, Audi, Panos etc. The whole issue would be full of articles on a particular make. Some were small production exotics like Panos. . I hung in there for those occasional good vintage article, but I have not renewed this year.

  3. for some reason the search engines found your site thanks to “barchetta” id. I’m no fan of Aficionado, pretentious is right on the money! Hemmings sports car magazine is very nice and I recall becoming a subscriber from on the piece you dumped on.

  4. Sources indicate Auto Aficionado will be ceasing publication. Details here.

  5. Yet one thrives and the other died. But yes, Hemmings is ultra-conservative. Maybe that’s what it takes.

  6. Terry Ehrich’s risk-averse mantra oddly helped solidify Hemmings market position in an era where the competition were several places right of the market share decimal point. Yet that strategy came at a great cost leaving Hemmings ill-equipped to deal with the future. New regime further squandered an opportunity to deliver a compelling online home for car lovers, while junking the publication with a patchwork quilt of shallow editorial at odds with the free-market nature of advertising. The matter of incompetent direct response is the least of Hemmings’ worries. Auto Aficionado’s fate was pre-ordained.

  7. oddly enough Hemmings Sports & Exotic is the only one still published and over 40k ABC Audited Readership and growing. Ohhhhh wise one how do you explain that?

  8. There’s nothing “odd” about AA ceasing publication given a shakey footing from the start so comparing the two suggests a Pyrrhic victory at best, or perhaps more accurately, The Dead Cow Bounce. Audit numbers don’t tell the full story. What’s the conversion rate from first year trials to paid subs? The overall paid renewal rate? Advertiser retention? Newsstand/sub ratio? And how will these so-called 40K pairs of eyeballs transition to a money-making website? Still, I can only imagine the unrealized circ potential thanks to Hemmings’ dysfunctional DM and related marketing. The days when fancy graphics and photo spreads were competitive tools are goinggoinggone. S&E is another reguritation of content easily obtained elsewhere at zero cost to the consumer or in a superior authoritative context, e.g., Sports Car Market.

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