Villing & Company

Is the PURL a Marketing Gem Worth Exploring?

Even if you’re not familiar with the term PURL in the marketing arena, you’ve probably seen this tactic in action. Although the technique has been around for a number of years, some consider it a hidden gem in the world of direct mail campaigns. PURL stands for “personalized url” and it works like this. A PURL incorporates the recipient’s name in a web address and provides a direct avenue to respond to the offer. Visiting the personalized address takes the recipient to a customized landing page for an easy to execute transaction. It’s been said that the most pleasing thing that a human can hear is the sound of their own name. Whether that directly transfers to seeing your own name in a url may be debatable, but if it’s done right, incorporating a PURL into your campaign may very well increase your direct mail response rate.

I recently received a membership renewal mailing from the Art Institute of Chicago that utilized a PURL. By visiting the customized address that ended in “/SteveLori”, I was directed straight to my current membership information and shown my renewal options and benefits. Within a matter of minutes, and only that long because I spent a little time reviewing the new benefits at each level and considering an upgrade, I had my family’s membership renewed for another year. I didn’t have to fill out a hard copy form and send a check (which for me always ends up delayed as I put it aside in my mail pile and plan to do it later) or search through their full website for the membership page and input my personal data. The PURL did that for me and offered a completely hassle free experience. It may be obvious, but it’s still worth stating that anytime you are asking people to part with their money, the easier you can make it for them to do so, the better your results.

It’s also worth noting that direct mail responses via a PURL are completely trackable. The Art Institute knows definitively that this particular mailing resulted in my renewal action. While I am obviously not privy to the Institute’s database management activities, being able to completely attribute an action to a particular effort is extremely valuable for marketing communications planning, budgeting and ROI tracking.

On a side note, while not directly related to the use of a PURL, one other cool thing that the Art Institute now offers is a free digital card app. I am able to have my member card on my phone to use for museum entry and associated on site member discounts (see image at left). From a consumer’s point of view, this little add-on rounded out what feels like a truly personalized interaction with the Institute.

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Villing & Company

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