HSBC & AAA: If it's that Important, be clear about it

These days, it appears like every piece of mail is "IMPORTANT".  The operative question is 'Important to Whom?'  For example, this letter from HSBC bank claims to have important account information ...
... however all it contained were Privacy and Accessibility notices, in small print, without an explanatory cover letter.  

I suppose this was important to HSBC's Compliance group and perhaps a handful of consumers.

AAA recently sent this letter with an envelope teaser noting 'IMPORTANT INFORMATION' about my membership.

The back of the envelope had two return addresses, one in Texas and one in California.

The content of the letter was about an address change, and the need to verify information.
The letter's tone was formal and explanatory.  It included three addresses: Texas, California, and now Delaware -- being sent to someone in Virgina.  At this point, one may wonder 'To where do I return the form?'  The letter mentions returning the form, but not who should receive it.

There is a return-reply envelope.  The return address is similar but not the same as the one in California -- the PO Box number is different.

This is a Fail for CreativeEven with the reply envelope, some people will still send the form to one of the three addresses on the letter. 

The letter should have only one return address and it should be consumer-relevant.  It should be the sole correspondence address and match the one that appears on the return envelope.  Otherwise, the consumer will be confused and the various offices will have to figure out what to do with mail that went to the wrong place.  That results in a waste of consumer time and AAA organization's time.

Lessons: Label your package "Important" only if it is important to the recipient.  Be sure you clearly communicate your call to action and only one location for response and correspondence.


2 weeks to redeem a prize is a Fail

This contest fulfillment package was recently mailed by Young America on behalf of Hershey's.  It was mailed in a nondescript, plain white envelope.

The recipient won a minor prize in a contest - a free Reese's product.  This was communicated on a plain, white piece of paper.  The package does not need to be fancy because, hey, it's a prize.

The coupon appears to be good for a candy bar.
This prize fulfillment package merits a Fail for Timing because it was received on August 18.  That gave the recipient only 2 weeks to claim the prize.  That is not an adequate response window.  If a prize winner is slow to read the mail, that person may be upset if he/she misses the window to use the coupon.  The coupon could have easily been marked to expire 9/30/10 or, even better, 12/31/10.

Lesson: Even for a totally free item, there should be adequate time for the consumer to take action in response to your mail.


Geico: Only a 15 minute list update could save Geico from a Fail

This direct mail package from Geico might be creatively complete.  From a promotional standpoint, it goes all out.  

The outer envelope includes an inviting benefit teaser on the front as well as a promotional teaser on the back. It leverages the fact that the recipient moved to a new location, and implies a financial benefit to the new zip code as well as a peak at a hundred dollar bill.

The front of the letter leverages Geico branding.  It includes not one but two Johnson Boxes as well as a side bar that clearly communicates savings benefits and call to action.
In the package, there are no fewer than seven calls to action to get an insurance quote.  Most of them talk to ease of the transaction, with copy points such as "a few minutes to do"; "trained professionals are there for you 24/7"; and "All you have to do is answer some simple questions ...".  Forget 15 minutes?  This is fast & easy!

The letter communicates savings benefits as well as a positive customer experience.  It includes a testimonial on the back, a sincere, signed close, and the all-important P.S. that reinforces benefits messaging and call to action.

Finally, the bottom of the letter included an immediate benefit for opening the envelope -- return address stickers with the Geico geeko. (I'm showing only one row because the stickers are so cool that I plan to use them.)
This package utilizes many direct mail best practices: envelope teaser, promotional copy, Johnson Box, side box, a feeling of sincerity, a signature, multiple calls to action, immediate benefits, strong benefit messages, focused P.S., and alignment with messaging from other communication channels.

So why the Fail?  For Timing.  Typically, consumers have 30 days to choose a new auto insurer after they move, however, I received the letter 3½ months after moving to a new zip code.  Geico could improve its success by updating the hot movers list it uses and mailing more frequently.

Although not worthy of a Fail, the testimonial on the back is a bit off the mark.  It represents a customer who chose Geico before she moved, while the package is addressed and messaged to potential customers who are in their new home.

Lesson: When you are targeting recent movers, be sure to reach them when they recently moved.