Mail Early, Mail Often, and Don't Fail

The 2010 election is behind us, so it's time to share some lessons about failed political mail.

As with direct mail used for marketing purposes, political mail can Fail for List, Creative, and Timing.  An example of a Creative Fail is when the wrong message is conveyed to a constituency, as with Al Edwards in Texas earlier this year.

On election day, I received this self-mailer supporting a proposition on the Houston, Texas ballot:

The message is clear, friendly, and persuasive.  So why the Fail?  For List.  It was mailed to me in Arlington, VA, presumably because I used to live in and was registered to vote in Houston.  However, my voter registration moved to Virginia more than six months ago.  Given that they were mailing close to the election date, the people behind the mailing should have dropped anyone that might have voted via absentee ballot as well as those who cannot legally vote in Houston.

Here is an easy Fail for Timing

This oversized postcard from the Chris Zimmerman campaign arrived on November 3, the day after the election.  The use of black copy over dark backgrounds such as in the "Supporting our environment" box makes some text unreadable.  This is sadly typical of quickly produced political direct mail, not exceptionally bad enough to call it an outright Fail.

  1. Send your political mail only to people who can vote for your election when they still have the opportunity to choose how to vote.  
  2. Use adequate color contrast to ensure people can read your message.


Amtrak's fulfillment mailing: Delayed

Outer envelope front
This fulfillment card carrier for the Amtrak Guest Rewards Program arrived via standard mail on October 27.  I joined the program online during the first week in July and made my first points-earning trip on July 11.  It took Amtrak 3 1/2 months to welcome me to the program and mail me a card.  This long delay makes an easy Fail for Timing.  One might claim the mail was slow, but the postmark on the outer envelope shows it was mailed in October.   

A delayed welcome mailing or new customer greeting will make an initial positive perception sour. 

Outer envelope back

Lesson: When you have a new customer, greet that customer right away while the introduction to your product or service is fresh in your customer's memory. 
rewards card carrier & info
card carrier flap