After some years of using a standard merge-format letter, I sat down with Descanso Gardens to rework their membership renewal system with the goal of a more attention-grabbing letter, a push for membership upgrade, and incorporation of a new membership campaign. Their previous 2 packages had been in use for a few years in a row, and one concern was that viewing fatigue was causing recipients to ignore the mailing. Another item high on the list of additions was the ability to showcase new events outside the letter body.
Since a full-color merge document has to be done on a digital press, I thought we should maximize on the versatility of the process and make seasonally-themed ever-changing letters. We decided on a system that showcases a monthly theme for each mid-month mailing with timely event info to encourage engagement. Due to the changing theme, each recipient gets a different letter ahead of expiration from the one post-expiration to keep the look fresh and attention focused. While the letter body makes the case for membership in prose, we added an upgrade ask and a 2-year ask on the reply slip. The letter back does the heavy lifting of describing each membership level and benefit so recipients can make the best choice for their household.
The renewal letter was the first rollout of the We Grow More Than Plants campaign, where the focus is on people engaging with the Gardens and experiencing nature. Each layout has 3 placements of seasonal photos that change monthly along with color blocks to contrast. The letters feel like a series while each is a unique opportunity to show everything Descanso is up to. We’re coming up on completing our first year, and I’m really pleased with how these have turned out.