The Dark Side of Direct Mail
By Guest Contributor on April 28th, 2011
By Liz Swanson
There’s no question that today’s consumer is overwhelmed by the amount of marketing messages they encounter. Every day, they come across thousands of emails, direct mail pieces, advertisements, web banners, texts, and so on. They’ve almost become numb to the selling, which means that marketers have to find new and creative ways to break through the white noise.
Unfortunately in the quest to be THE message that is heard on any given day, sometimes a marketer will go a little too far–and enters the dark side of direct mail marketing. The message is heard for all the wrong reasons, leaving the consumer confused, angry or manipulated.
Recently, Boston.com posted an article about a direct mail campaign that went out to an unknown number of National Grid customers from HomeServe USA, an insurance company that sells coverage for furnace and plumbing repairs.
The intention of the mailing was win back former customers and have them reactivate their insurance coverage with HomeServe USA. Instead, many of the recipients thought they had received a bill from National Grid. The direct mail piece contained National Grid’s logo, had a design lay-out similar to a bill with an amount due, and the warning that it was “Payable Upon Receipt.” Not until the fine print on the second page was HomeServe USA referenced.
Just read the comments to the article to get a sense of how duped some customers felt. While it’s true that they had National Grid’s permission to use its logo and name, HomeServe USA should have been more upfront with their audience about the intention of the mailing.
The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is now investigating the complaints about the mailing, meaning HomeServe USA could be facing criminal charge for deceptive marketing practices.
Yes, consumers should read their mail before blindly sending money to a company. BUT with effective direct marketing, the message and call-to-action should be crystal clear to the recipient. It’s our job as marketers not to confuse or deceive our audience because once we do, we lose trust.
Elizabeth Swanson is a Marketing Services Specialist with Iron Mountain