How This Direct Mailer Almost Got It Right

By | May 29, 2016

Yesterday, my husband teased me that I’d gotten a direct mailer from the Baltimore County Department of Aging. Not him — just me. Okay, the years are creeping by, but I’m not close to retirement age yet.  Plus, we don’t even live in Baltimore County. When we officially get “old,” we’ll be creeping our walkers up to the Harford County office.

This morning, however, my husband showed me the real reason behind keeping the mail piece.  It was to show off yet another bone-headed attempt at marketing. The front of the mail piece was completely forgettable — the kind of piece that goes into the recycling without a thought. One of millions of bulk mail pieces delivered that day.

IMG_7675But wait! The back was printed in bright green and blue with a big 10k graphic. There was advertising for a 5k run/walk a 1 mile walk, both fundraisers, and other information on how this event would benefit BCDA programs for seniors.

We are trail racers, and we do a lot of fundraising events, so now everything made sense. This likely went to anyone in Baltimore or Harford counties who had registered for one or more of the many trail races run in this area of Maryland every year.

But all of the information relevant to me was on the back of the mailer where, thanks to extremely poor design, it almost didn’t get seen. Had there not been some precipitating event that caused my husband to turn this piece over (it fell on the floor? He accidentally flipped it over when reaching for something else?), it would have.

IMG_7674The Department of Aging almost got it right. We were the right audience, but the extremely poor design of the mailer itself almost caused the good list selection to be for naught. Marketing had the foresight to get the right list, but it did not think critically enough about the design of the piece itself.

If you had been the print and mail house, what would you have done? At the last minute, suggesting that they completely redesign the piece probably would have gone nowhere. But what about suggesting that they add bright blue teaser copy on the front? There was certainly plenty of space.Something like, “Fundraiser 5k and 1-mile fun run!” would have sufficient.

This also would have been a great opportunity to split the mailing — half with the original design and half with the teaser copy — to see which version produced the best results.

This is yet another reason to encourage your customers to let you get involved in the campaign planning upfront. Even if they aren’t willing to do that — yet — perhaps you could encourage them to add you to their mailing lists so you can see the final mailed pieces. Something like this could be taken back to the client for a sit down meeting on what went wrong and a consultation on how you could have helped.

What was the last direct mail fail that came across your desk? Share a story!

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