Juice Up Your Appeals with Variable Imagery

UVM postcard mailing variable imagery
This postcard mailing for UVM makes use of variable imagery in the heading, with postcards segmented for recipients from different graduation years.

Variable imagery is one of the many benefits available with today’s digital print technology. It’s an effective and surprisingly easy way to add a personal touch to your fundraising materials, increasing engagement and gifts made to your organization.

What is Variable Imagery?

When you personalize a letter to read “Dear Jane” rather than “Dear Friend”, you’re making use of a process called Variable Data Printing (VDP). With VDP, a single document is designed, and certain sections are designated as variable fields.

What is printed in each variable field can be personalized on an individual level, like the salutation, or with a certain segment of your list in mind, such as your call to action. There are many ways that variable printing can be used, all with the goal of making the print piece more personalized and engaging to the recipient.

And, VDP isn’t limited to text. An image can also be considered a variable field. VDP allows you to print a different image in the same location of your print piece for different segments of your list.  

Making Use of Variable Imagery

The more you can customize a mail piece using VDP, the more personal it’s going to be for the recipient. Making use of imagery has been shown to improve readership and engagement. Doing so in a targeted, personal way helps the reader to feel you’re communicating with them on a one-to-one level, rather than as a general member of your audience.

Here’s an example. Maybe your donor base is made up of a range of age groups. And, you want to include some images in your appeal. Consider choosing several images, representative of the different demographics you’ll be mailing to. When an individual sees an image that is representative of them, it helps to make your appeal more relatable.

Once you’ve chosen your images, designate the location of those images as variable fields. You’ll need to segment your mailing list based on this age breakdown to determine which images make sense to mail to which recipients. When your appeal has been mailed, make sure to keep track of the results to see how variable imagery affected the outcome of your campaign.

It’s important to note that the effective use of variable imagery heavily depends on your data. Do you have the data necessary to segment your donor list as in the example above? If not, can you get that data? Your database is a critical piece to providing customized mailings to your audience.

A Case Study: Camp Brown Ledge Appeal Self-Mailer

An effective example of variable imagery at work is in this appeal mailing for the Brown Ledge Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to oversee the operation of Camp Brown Ledge, a long-running Summer camp for girls located on Lake Champlain. At the time of this mailing, the foundation had been seeing a decline in donations, and wanted to step up their fundraising materials to renew donor interest and raise more funds for the camp.

Before and after comparison Camp Brown Ledge Appeal

The appeal, sent to camp alumnae, went from a basic letter in an envelope to an image heavy self-mailer. The cover featured photos meant to catch the eye, and the inside of the mailer was personalized with the alumna’s name.

The end panel of the mailer featured a series of 4 images of camp life. This is where the variable imagery comes in. These 4 photos differed across the mailing—the images on the mailer were personalized to the recipient, populated with photos taken during the decade each recipient was a camper at Brown Ledge.

Brown Ledge Variable Imagery

Using variable imagery in this way helped to increase personal interest, as alumnae were visually reminded of their own time at camp. And it proved to be a more engaging appeal than past efforts, increasing response rates and significantly raising more funds for the foundation.

The notion of variable imagery may seem daunting. In fact, it’s easier than ever before for your printer to apply this technology to your next appeal campaign. However, it does require planning on your end, including having enough demographic information about your audience, and generating imagery for each segment you’d like to mail to.

If you’d like to incorporate variable imagery into your next appeal, Paw Print can help! We specialize in direct mail appeal production and fulfillment, and can help you make variable imagery easy.

Leave a Reply