3 Easy Takeaways From the Worst Direct Mail Ever
You can learn quite a bit by studying the best examples of direct mail. But can you learn something from studying the worst direct mail?
This is a question that’s been running through my head lately.
I always advise customers who use Who’s Mailing What! to check out controls, especially the Grand Controls (those in the mail for three years or more). They represent the best techniques, formats, creative and copywriting.
But every once in a while, I think about the worst mail I’ve ever seen. And, I don't mean mail that just never gets opened.
I’m not talking about bad Photoshop work, or self-mailers that tear because of too much glue, or misdirected mail you get from poor list work. I’m not even talking about charity scams, which never seem to go away.
I am talking about mail that gets something really, really wrong. Here are a few examples, and what can be learned from them.
1. Be More Subtle
Behold, my personal choice as the second worst mailing ever.
What a mess, right?
Lots and lots of underlining, stacks of money, all caps, full dollar amounts, the magic word “FREE” … it’s 16 pages of everything and the kitchen sink when it comes to direct mail graphic elements.
I've never run across anything as extreme as this mailer, but then, what could possibly top it? Designers, take it easy. If everything is important, then nothing is.
2. Hire A Good Copywriter
Or at least someone who can proofread well.
I once wrote that this was the worst letter I ever read, and I stand by that assessment.
3. Take Advantage of Every Opportunity
It’s disappointing when a direct mail package does some elements very well, but then squanders an opportunity to engage further because of an omission or a misstep in strategy.
A good example is this lovely calendar that was mailed by the Natural Lands Trust, a conservation organization, as a thank you to donors. Not included with the calendar or inside the envelope: a response device. At all.
There’s a chance for the nonprofit to deepen a relationship that’s been established by the initial gift and the premium, as well as bring in more money, and all it takes is an envelope.
Now, my one caveat to putting these examples out there is that they may have very well worked. I doubt it, but anything's possible.
To quote Denny Hatch, "I can't judge good direct mail. It judges me." And there's plenty of "good" direct mail that follows the rules and gets tossed in the recycling bin along with the "bad."
Just ask yourself if you're doing everything you can to make your mail succeed.
What’s the worst direct mail you’ve ever seen? Please feel free to share in the comments below.