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January 2006 e-Gram

Lessons from a Wolverine

How would you like to make your client’s product the best-seller in its category? Follow the inlead of national shoe manufacturer Wolverine, which used variable data printing (VDP), also known as 1:1 print marketing, to make its hiking boot a best-seller in its category in a national department store chain.

At the outset of the campaign, Wolverine didn’t have a tremendous amount of in-house data on its customers. Then it partnered with Gortex, a non-competing company in the same space, to create a profile of its most likely prospect.

Next, Wolverine created a 1:1 print direct mail piece targeting those prospects. The over-sized postcard incorporated the recipients’ names into the graphics to maximize the “wow” factor. The postcard also provided them with the address of the closest store participating in the promotion and a dynamically generated map showing the route from their homes to the store. It even gave them the exact number of footsteps required to get there!

For the first week the shoe was in the store, it was the first top-selling shoe in its category—highly unusual for a hiking boot. Wolverine was also able to use these responses to append its in-house file to create a more powerful database for the future.

So what lessons can you take into your own in-house VDP campaign?

1. Even if you don’t have a great in-house list, you can still use the list you have creatively.

2. When possible, append your database with a purchased list or by partnering with a non-competing company.

3. Understand the psychographics of your prospect base, and match the offer and the level of personalization to them. For example, the older generation might feel that too much personalization is intrusive, while the younger generation will tend to more readily understand and embrace the power of this type of messaging.

4. Experiment and refine the message to figure out what works. If possible, stagger the campaign to test different messaging, price points and offers.

And as always, use the information learned from past campaigns to tweak future ones. Don’t let the valuable lessons get lost from one campaign to another.