Direct Mail Fail

This direct mail piece is a good example of how not to do direct mail.

First, the envelope:


“Time Value: Do Not Delay” + presorted standard postage = ERROR/ERROR/DOES NOT COMPUTE.

This error is compounded by the “Please Open Immediately” and the “Urgent” tag. If you’re sending something by bulk mail, it’s de facto not urgent — or it sure shouldn’t be, since even when mailing in-state, it can take a week or more for bulk mail to arrive.

Then they refer to the recipient as a “customer” when, in fact, no one in this household has ever been a customer of this store, AND the address includes “Or Current Resident.” There’s enough right here on the envelope to tell me that this is true junk mail. There’s so much nonsense going on that I’d wager the open rate is awful, and that means a lot of wasted money.

But I opened it because I’m interested in marketing, if not furniture, and here’s the contents:

ImageOkay. I was surprised to find that the “urgency” on the envelope actually had some basis in fact: if it’s a going-out-of-business sale, then indeed it’s my last chance to buy at this store. The copy reads okay — the standard amount of hysteria, but no more. I found it interesting that this is a “private sale” to which the recipient, as a “past and present customer” (NOT) is being invited, and that the general public won’t hear about it “at this time.” Of course, this doesn’t mean that the general public won’t be allowed to attend — only that the newspaper and radio ads will probably hit a few days after you receive the mailer. The recipient isn’t really being offered anything special, but Rollins would like him to think he is.(To Rollins’ credit, the sale doesn’t appear on the company’s website at this time. It’s also absent from their Facebook page, but that’s no indication or anything, since they hardly ever post there.)

But the best error, the real prize-winner, is that there’s NO DATE FOR THE SALE! Thursday through Sunday. Right. This weekend? Next? I don’t know.

We see this all the time on marketing devices of all sorts: the omission of key information that totally nullifies the entire marketing effort. (Newspaper ads are easy pickings for this kind of error: they often neglect to include addresses, as if everyone knows where the store is located.) What a waste of money!

In a sense, this is an example of knowing too much: the person writing the letter knows the date (or the address, or what the business offers), and forgets that the audience doesn’t necessarily have the same information. For any marketing effort, it makes sense to go through the journalist’s “five Ws” — who, what, when, where, why. They don’t all┬ánecessarily apply to every marketing piece, but you should consider each one, decide whether it belongs, and then make sure that the ones that do belong are, in fact, included. Then pass it around to as many people as you can stand to accept input from (or give it to one marketing professional), and get feedback before you waste money printing and mailing a piece that will likely do you no good.