Blind Outer Makes a Comeback
It now seems like ages ago, but the anthrax scare of fall 2001 left a lasting impression on how direct marketers interact with their customers and prospects.
Marketers responded to nervous consumers by avoiding the creation of packages that looked handmade or "blind." The implementation of cursive writing for the return address and teaser copy momentarily waned from usage, yielding to more blaring brand recognition, logos and bold fonts for the return address. Some even said that it would be a long time before we saw the "blind outer" again.
Well, in the January 2003 Archive mail we stumbled across an organization that has pushed its blind outer back into the mailstream.
The Special Olympics dropped a 4" x 6" blind outer envelope, invitation-style mailing, containing: a 4-3/4" x 7-1/4" fold-out letter, donation card, Special Olympics decal and a CRE (607SPEOLY0103A). The only characteristic that prevents this mailing from being truly blind is the standard-size poly window in the center of the envelope. Save for the red-ink meter mark in the upper right hand corner, it is completely blank.
This particular invitation format package has been widely used by mailers, especially those in the nonprofit arena. As coincidence would have it, National Multiple Sclerosis Society mailed it right around the same time as Special Olympics, in December, marking the first occasion the Archive received this format from it. (604NAMUSS1202). In the past it tested self-mailers, double postcards and standard-sized outer envelope packages with intriguing teaser copy. In one example from an October 2001 4" x 7-1/2" effort with a graphic of a mother pushing a baby in a stroller, the accompanying copy read: "In just a few years, this picture could change drastically."
But in the case of Special Olympics, this is not the first time it has used this acquisition technique. According to the Archive, Special Olympics aggressively prospected with various types of envelope formats over the last few years, but used a blind invitation mailing to allure prospective donors in July 2002, ironically enough in October 2001, and in October 2000.
The last two mailings had one subtle variation: the logo on the back flap. Now, experts may refute the claim that it could even be considered "blind," but the front is still barren, and the Special Olympics insignia is reduced to a small size, with no return address. But there's no mistaking its last two versionsJuly 2002 and January 2003are blind.
For historical purposes, it's important to note that Special Olympics has made use of a #10 blind outer
envelope with a poly-window in July and April of 2001, January 2000, and January 1999.
Because Special Olympics could not be reached for comment, we can only speculate on its strategies with re-introducing the blind outer. Special Olympics seems to be challenging the forecast of a year ago by some industry experts that the blind outer will become extinct.
One thing can be said for certain: The organization is no stranger to leaving off that return address.