Bed Bath & Beyond's Famous Postcard: Scout Case Study


This is probably the most well known brand postcard you've ever seen. My mother has one floating around her home office on basically any given day.

It's simple, and it works. That's why Bed Bath & Beyond never changes it.

Let's break down exactly why it works and the tactics you should implement in your next campaign.

If you have any questions, either reach the Scout team here or simply click on that floating face in the bottom right of your screen.

A front that captures consumer attention

Picture of the front side of a Bed Bath & Beyond 20% postcard.

Bed Bath & Beyond has the right idea on the front of this card:

  • Huge, notable discount that catches the eye
  • Showcasing of the household name brand (we typically discourage this unless you have a near cult-like following, which Bed Bath & Beyond has)
  • And a reminder that the discount applies to 100,000+ different items

Remember, you have roughly 2-3 seconds to grab the reader's attention before the postcard is tossed away. To capitalize in this short amount of time, you either need to be a reputable brand with a following (think of Apple, Patagonia, Costco) or a killer offer. Bed Bath & Beyond's design team put both of those hooks into action.

There's not much more to say about the front. It's clean and effective. They didn't overthink it – a mistake we see way too often. Here's some tips on how to design a postcard that actually converts.

It's so good, all the terrible crap on the back doesn't even matter.

Beyond a below average back

Bed Bath & Beyond postcard backside

It doesn't really matter that the back side looks like a clutter of discorganized colors and paragraphs, because the other side is so compelling. That being said,there are other things to learn here.

Let's take a look at four areas that give you some insight here.

Coupon codes upsell (don't do them!)

Bed Bath & Beyond must have awesome sales with this campaign:

  1. This is the only design that ever comes out of the postcard archive of Bed Bath & Beyond
  2. They double-down on their 20% offer by giving you more ways to get 20% off

This is super telling that they took about 1/5th of their overall space to offer you more ways to save 20%. Breaking up your message on a postcard is a dangerous game (splitting attention can often lead to inaction), but they send so many of these damn things it probably pays off for them... and email address and mobile device marketing is free once you convert.

Take this as a lesson... splitting your message is something you shouldn't do until you've optimized your design so much that you can measure your return afford to send the same postcard over and over again.

Generally, it is a good rule of thumb to send a 20% off (or other special offers) postcard that they could only redeem by signing off for mobile offers offers OR email offers.

Gift card for breakage

Again, they have split their message. Saying to you, hey also do this other additional thing. Now a full 1/3rd of their available space is used for ancillary offers. If you're not a big brand like Bed Bath & Beyond... DO NOT DO THIS.

Focus on your core offering only. They want to push their Gift Cards (which, by the way, you can't get 20% off on) because of breakage. Breakage is basically the % of gift cards that never get redeemed... it's why companies offer gift cards at all... that's one of the best deals for them- free money.

Clever lawyers

It's clear that the tons of people have exploited this offer and likely cost Bed Bath & Beyond tons of money.

Let's dive into their caveats carefully:

  1. Can't use for online purchases (this makes it harder for techies to take advantage of and others who don't want to drive to their local store just for a set of new bath towels :)).
  2. Can't duplicate (so you have to save each card).
  3. One coupon per single item (not getting the 20% entire purchase and 100% off is clearly prevented).
  4. Can't combine with a price match (probably lost a ton of money on this combo)
  5. You gotta give them the damn paper coupon to get 20% off (clever customers took advantage of this, likely)
  6. You can't get full price back if you return the item (20% CASH!!)
  7. Doesn't apply to Gift Cards, sales tax, or shipping (sounds like a good scam, avoided, too)
  8. 66 brands excluded (you know it took them a long time to calculate margins on these items)
  9. 5 services excluded, 1 product only at 10% (smart parents saved a LOT on diapers)

Think about how many campaigns it took, how many mistakes, how much lost revenue it took for them to find out all of the various scams, optimizations, customer tricks, loss scenarios, and customer service headaches in which the 20% offer didn't workout for them? A LOT of postcards!

Remember, if you keep your offer super simple you can avoid all of this work. It's simple.

  1. What's the Life Time Value of your customer (LTV)?
  2. How much did you pay to run your direct mail campaign?
  3. How much runway do you have to realize that value?

If you're LTV is $100 and you paid us $20 to run your campaign, but it takes 6 months to realize that $100... and you have a month of runway (whatever that means to you)... maybe postcards aren't right for you. So, think about all of these variables before running a campaign.

Other technical notes

They have a note to the postmaster on when to deliver the cards. That's crazy. That means that Bed Bath & Beyond sends so many of these and has such a good control of their process that they can specify a 3 day window.

So, they must print them ahead of time to control their costs. Also, note the expiration date... it's about a month and half. That's a good limited time window to give people to act, but not too constricted to convince them not to act at all. Although, insider tip, Bed Bath & Beyond never expires these things... so you can always use expired store coupons.

Until next time.


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