Insights from online discussion board saves direct mail campaign

Traditional face-to-face focus groups are regularly used to test creative and direct mail collateral before they are sent for pilot testing. But there is now a faster and more cost effective way of testing marketing collateral without losing any of the quality. A more insightful way of thoroughly testing the impact of both the marketing and creative, while getting closer to the consumer’s view of your world. In this case study we provide one example of how a fast online discussion replaced a traditional face to face focus group and helped to save a direct marketing campaign.

The client needed to provide strategic communication advice, key message development and copy writing services for a government-sponsored health initiative called “Get-Healthy”.


The Get Healthy Service provides information and ongoing health coaching support about how to improve your lifestyle in relation to:

  • Healthy eating.
  • Being active.
  • Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

The communication under review was a direct mail package sent to targeted households. The proposed direct mail piece was to include details of the offer, relevant calls to action to encourage individual participation in the free program.


To ascertain the effectiveness of a proposed direct mail piece for a state government health department to determine and pre-test the effectiveness of the content and presentation of the offer, prior to targeted distribution.

Target audiences

Male and female, 35-65 years, from low SEIFA postal areas.

What they did

Due to the geographic dispersion of regional and metropolitan participants online Discussion Boards were chosen over real-time groups due to, participant availability (they were able to contribute to the discussion at a time convenient to them) and some restrictions on Internet reliability in some of the more remote regions. Using the GroupQuality solution it was easy to screen participants using the integrated survey tool and get the discussion up and running in hours and not days.

  • 1 x online discussion board group
  • 3 days in duration
  • 8 participants
  • A moderator
  • Observers

Based on the project objectives, the discussion was structured as follows (in context of receiving the material in the post):

Day 1: Get it
Day 2: Read it
Day 3: Consider it

8 screened participants were mailed the direct mail piece in a sealed envelope, and instructed to open it on a designated date and time to mimic their response to their first exposure to the information.

Case study using a GroupQuality online discussion board.

Insights revealed

The feedback and insights provided by the participants established that the general “look and feel” of the Get Healthy envelope was a key influence in shaping the initial perceptions of, and attitudes toward, the letter enclosed.

In particular, the insights confirmed that as the first point of engagement, the envelope should be presented and addressed in a way that is appealing to the receiver in order to warrant their further involvement with the mail piece. A key point of contention among the participants was the use of the “To the Householder” label, which the majority disliked. On a positive note, the use of Get Healthy branding and supporting material ( fridge magnet) helped to reinforce the campaign’s key messaging and ensure the Service remained top-of-mind.

In terms of the most influential insights, the majority of respondents were of the opinion that the mail package contained junk mail or political advertising material due to the presentation of the envelope. Recognition of the Get Healthy branding and Government logo was not immediate and the appeal of the letter suffered due to its generic and impersonal mode of address. The presentation of the letter was also noted as an area for improvement – particularly with regard to the layout of the text copy and small, unattractive pictures.


  • Upon reviewing the feedback, an alternative creative strategies was employed to help improve the visual appeal of the envelope:
  • The “To the Householder” label was replaced with an alternative option: “To anyone who wants to get healthy”.
  • The agency significantly increased the size and prominence of the Government logo (bottom left-hand corner) and Get Healthy logo (bottom right-hand corner).
  • An eye-catching “Free Health Service” banner was incorporated in the top right-hand side of the envelope to help trigger motivation to act among mail recipients.

The letter

Direct mail online market research
  • It was the agencies intention to make the letter less text-heavy and cluttered. So, they made the decision to increase it to two-pages (as opposed to one) in the attempt to making it appear more inviting and easier to read.
  • They reviewed the existing layout of the letter to consider the value of larger images and the power of colour in order to maintain reader interest. Making the letter two-pages allowed it to run four separate testimonials (in break-out boxes) presented in much larger font, purple (as opposed to black).
  • A large photo was also included alongside each testimonial (as opposed to two very small thumbnail images featured in the original letter’s testimonial).
  • The idea to run a range of testimonials (male and female from different backgrounds and walks of life) was influenced by participants stating they enjoyed the depiction of a good example of realistic and achievable body change.
  • The agency also changed the first line of address in the letter from “Dear Householder” (in normal font) to FREE HEALTH COACHING SERVICE in bright green bold font as a heading to reinforce the campaign message.
  • They kept paragraphs short and maintained the use of bullet points to encourage reader engagement.

Thank you to Corporate Communications for sharing the outcomes

GroupQuality® is a cloud based software and consulting service that helps you capture insights, in less time, on smaller budgets and with fewer resources. If you need a fast and flexible tool to engage customers, employees and partners, to communicate, collaborate, ask questions and quickly capture the answers, then we are for you!

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