Anyone who's ever had to deal with those unpleasant bills that come up when cars, plumbing systems and the like stop working right rue the day when they passed on less expensive protection offered to them. Fear, the possibility of a future, costly regret, is the key to an offer by Frigidaire to an appliance customer with a warranty facing imminent expiration. It's a package that's been in the mail for at least three years, thereby qualifying it as one of the Who's Mailing What! Archive's newest Grand Controls (controls in the mail for three years or more) (Archive code #347-178705-1010).
The microwave owner first gets an idea of what he needs to do because of the warranty's end date, which shows through a window on the #10 outer. The words "LAST CHANCE" in big, friendly red letters also communicate the urgency of the warning (see image in viewer at right). The letter runs two pages, but a lot of the copy is dedicated to providing simple peace of mind. "Keeping you happy with your microwave is our highest priority," it begins, and the reassuring tone continues throughout: "worry-free product protection," "one free and easy phone call," "top-quality components" and "we'll stand behind you."
Red headlines above single paragraphs call attention to the warranty plan's benefits, such as cost ("You'll stop large repair bills"), a guaranteed fix, and convenient customer service and satisfaction. One of the package's inserts is intended to demonstrate to the customer that a warranty extension is about saving money, and maybe lots of it. "Don't make a $1,052 mistake!" reads the caption, accompanying a photo of an unsmiling couple totaling a bill with a calculator and checkbook. Inside, Frigidaire lists several "real-life repair problems," and for each, how much each cost (e.g., "WE PAID $848"), spelled out in red ink.
Another insert shows a happy couple on its front, and backs up the other benefits of the extension. When opened to its full 11" x 8-1/2" size, it uses three panels to answer typical questions about the warranty, restating the points made in the letter. Customer testimonials are on another panel, and the back one repeats the money-back guarantee.
The simple reply form, perfed to the bottom of the letter, is also dominated by the color red. It's designed well, clearly spelling out the annual cost of the warranty, with coverage options for one, two or three years, as well as for a payment plan. The main checkbox also helps close the deal by reminding the customer of the 10 percent discount built into the plan's price. Smartly, the Terms & Conditions aren't found on the form — they're spelled out on one side of a buck slip that again shows the high cost of appliance repairs. Moving the fine print there means one less interruption to closing the sale.
Paul Bobnak is the director of the Who's Mailing What! Archive. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.