Dogs Trust: Legacy Insert

Original Dogs Trust Legacy insert

After a trip to my latest Pets At Home store for another bag of cat litter, I opened the shop’s membership magazine, My VIP, and out fell the above insert from Dogs Trust. It’s a short piece looking for interest in the Dogs Trust legacy program, Gifts in Wills, offering a free guide to respondents.

While it’s true I am more of a cat person, I’m also a big lover of other animals, including dogs, but I wasn’t particularly motivated by this insert’s copy, so it became an obvious choice for a bit of tinkering!

I’ll start by saying that I’m only focusing on the front side of this insert as I feel the reverse is efficient enough as a reply device.

So the first thing I, and anyone else of course, will notice is the headline, which chooses to lead with the fact that they ‘never put down a healthy dog’… but do they? If you think about it, the headline is structured in such a way (‘we promise…’) that you could infer that they don’t already ‘never put down a healthy dog’. What springs to my mind is a petulant child insisting to his mum or dad, “I promise, I won’t do it again!’. And we all know how reliable those types of promises are! This issue is emphasised by the copy that follows: ‘please promise to…’, which obviously their target audience hasn’t done yet. So it’s like ‘we promise this if you promise that’, with neither as yet having been fulfilled. This may seem trivial but these are exactly the kind of holes that can put off potential legacy donors. And with people’s pockets tighter than ever, just one tiny hole is one too many.

My other issue with this headline is it’s all about ‘we’. Now I’m not saying the whole ‘no-kill’ angle isn’t effective, as it obviously is, but is it the best use of that crucially important headline space? These kind of headlines trigger a knee-jerk response from people short on time, and they’re usually not good, ranging from “yeah right” and “whatever” to “who cares” and “don’t believe you”. Dismissal, moving on. And that’s another potential donor lost.

My preferred approach for the headline space is to connect with the potential donor on a personal level, to make them feel, to raise an eyebrow, to make them think. And to keep ‘we’ out of it! The quickest way to lose someone’s interest is to start talking about yourself. This is the spot to hook people’s attention and make it about them, before reeling them in…

So moving on, ‘please promise to leave a gift in your will…’. Nice quick appearance of the ask, but is that the aim of this insert? You definitely want to be raising interest at this point, but with an arguably weak and impersonal lead followed by an abrupt jump to ‘leave a gift in your will’, it might be a bit more rushed than most people would put up with. It could even be a bit more serious than you’d like when all you’re really trying to do is get people to claim a free guide to Gifts in Wills.

Personally, I’d use this spot to continue building that relationship with the potential donor, reminding them of what they treasure in a dog (their dog, most likely, as this flyer was in a pet owner focused mag!) and how they could ensure the gift of love and care for other, equally deserving dogs. What a meaningful legacy that would be to leave. And that’s the crucial bit: what matters most is that love and care. Most dog owners will tell you that their dogs are like family members: they love and care for them like they would a child. To have the opportunity to offer that level of love and care to many, many other dogs? Very appealing indeed, but you must draw on that desire in the copy if you want interest in legacy donations.

The next two sentences focus on Dogs Trust’s rehoming centres and the dogs in their care, with a very brief mention of the potential donor’s nature (‘kind people like you’), which in my opinion isn’t enough. It’s ALL about the potential donor, especially on the fragile subject of legacies. It’s imperative you trigger that deep-seated emotion if you want to spur action in this respect.

Having said that, it is also good to mention the large number of animals that could potentially be helped by a legacy gift – the more animals an animal lover could potentially help, the more likely they are to leave you their gift!

In conclusion, the main issue for me with legacy appeals is to get to the very root of what’s important to the potential donor, and nine times out of ten, that is to leave the love and care they gave and were given, to make a difference. It’s a very emotionally-driven affair and thus requires emotively focused copy.

Here’s an alternative version I put together:

My version of the Dogs Trust Legacy insert. Better, don’t you think?

You can view other pieces I have created for this industry by browsing through the Charity/Non-Profit category of my Portfolio.

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