Pushing the Envelopes
It’s a simple dictum: Get creative. And in the past it almost seemed like a luxury, partly because the numbers were on our side with the mass mailings. How much that will be the case in a troubled economy, however, remains to be seen.
I just returned from an industry trip, where I gathered some answers. It was the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) 2008 show in Las Vegas, beginning Oct. 11, and it included attending the 2008 International ECHO Awards hosted by “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno at the Bellagio Las Vegas. Leno was passably funny, but he stuck to his usual material: politics, daily news and relationships. In other words, it certainly wasn’t direct marketing, and despite his renown, he quickly lost the crowd. He committed sin No. 2 in our industry: He wasn’t relevant. He was like that piece of mail with a celebrity’s name in the corner card that originally piques your interest (sin No. 1 avoided), but nothing in the package attempts to be truly relevant, let alone actionable for
Rather, my moment of truly getting excited about direct mail and actually feeling sanguine about its future occurred during one of the sessions,“Breaking the Ice: How DM Warms Up Cold Prospects,” presented by Wayne Pick, executive creative director at Rapp Collins in Auckland, New Zealand. Right away, he admitted that he hadn’t predicted six months ago when he prepared this session for the DMA committee how relevant—and, as a result, very well-attended—his topic would prove to be.
Indeed, his session was designed for direct mailers who were dealing with tough prospects, many of whom were suffering from not just fiscal poverty, but “time poverty.” Fortunately, there is a creative way out of this puzzle.
Pick described the “mail moment to break the ice.” In other words, a routine piece of mail will not win hearts or minds, so it certainly won’t tap into their wallets either. Rather, his agency strives to create mail that is beyond relevant. It also must be entertaining, which usually means both smart and interesting. For example, no matter how hectic our daily work grind is, most folks may take an internet time-out for a short YouTube clip, precisely because the pleasant associations with that experience may contrast greatly with the stressful nature of our jobs.
Of course, the mail piece also must be beneficial for the prospects and essentially reward them for their time—after all, people have no patience for having their time wasted today. And if the tone of that effort is just right—honest, humble and respectful—then you have a winner on your hands.