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Divide and Conquer, by Mail

Time Warner Cable’s Charlotte, N.C., division nearly doubled the response rate to its direct-mail solicitations for digital phone service by dividing and targeting that mail into three “mega-segments.”

Using Cohorts, a household-based segmentation tool by Denver-based Looking Glass, Inc., the Charlotte unit disseminated the same sign-up offer Time Warner deployed in other markets. However, these messages were designed to specifically appeal to the segment households.

Each of the offers touted digital phone service with unlimited calling throughout the U.S. and Canada for $39.95 a month. That price includes advanced services such as caller ID, call waiting with ID, call forwarding and free wire maintenance. Each mailer spoofed phone users’ compulsion to make quick calls to save on per-minute charges.

That spoof, though, incorporated images and text designed to resonate with the target group. For instance, households with residents aged 46 to 58 and no children at home received a mailer called “lottery.” The text: “Hi. Lottery. 5 digits. Winner. Thousands. Flat Screen. Truck. Bye.”

Adults 26 to 33 with no kids at home got the same offer with a cute dog pictured on the front, containing the message “Hi. Sparky. Rampage. MP3 player. Chicken curry. Leather pants. Oven mitt. Bye.”

The third segment, directed to parents with kids at home, found a “frog” mailer, with the same terse dialogue, alluding to a school incident with a son sent to the principal’s office for detention.

Local Time Warner executives declined to talk specifically about the campaign.

Warren Zeller, vice president of account services for the Cohorts product, said eight of the top 12 cable operators are using the product to encode their databases for market segments, either on a system-wide level, or for a division or two.

Cohorts can research a 31 million-home database, populated with information from sources such as the warranty cards completed and sent in by consumers when they buy an appliance, for instance, Zeller said. The company’s key strategic partners include credit agencies such as Equifax and Experian; MRI, Scarborough Research and Simmons Market Research Bureau.

The Cohorts database has divided U. S. households into 30 segments identified by demographics, lifestyle and buying behaviors.

The company codes a client’s database, then the cable company takes that information to its ad agency partners to craft the eventual ad campaign, he said.