PayPal: Great for payments, Fail for mail

Blind envelopes sometimes offset lack of known brand to improve open rate
I recently received a letter in a blind outer envelope. The only hint of the mailer is the postage indicia from "LFS, Inc." The inside of the letter describes my opportunity to pay for some purchases over time with Bill Me Later® because I am a "Continental" customer. 

This letter has several Fails for Creative:
  • Copy is full-justified, making it difficult to read.
  • All copy is the same font size, including the 9-line disclosure. The only use of boldface is for required legal copy. This makes the letter impossible for a customer to scan.
  • The entire letter is one color, with a logo that appears to be produced on a dot matrix printer.
  • The call to action is difficult to comprehend. Is it to request an account as mentioned in the first paragraph, place an order with a merchant as mentioned in the third paragraph, or go to their website?
  • The word "on-line" is hyphenated. While this is grammatically acceptable, it isn’t a stylistically common usage in consumer communications, potentially distracting readers.
  • The offer is good through "December 05, 202011." A date before the 10th of a month should not have a zero in it, and "202011" is not a real year. Proofread your materials!
  • Every mention of Bill Me Later® includes a registered trademark in superscript. Legally, the registered trademark is required only in a company's first mention in body copy. Also, superscripted text interrupts eye flow and should generally be avoided.
  • Some of the copy is pedestrian. For example, in the third paragraph the customer is asked to place an order for "an amount not exceeding your pre-approved amount." Huh?
  • The letter has a signatory but no signature. This further suggests that it is an impersonal form letter and the company is not caring of the customer.
Hard to scan + Hard to read + Hard to understand = Hard to believe
On the whole, a letter like this will fail to inspire consumer confidence or interest in Bill Me Later. It is a challenge to believe that something is "convenient and safe!" when the sales letter is poorly written and has errors.  Even letters from the federal government look better than this.

PayPal could improve a one-page solicitation letter in many ways, including:
  • Adding color to the package.
  • Positively branding the envelope as from PayPal, a trusted brand, with the PayPal logo.
  • Using balanced and varied typeface sizes.
  • Adding a Johnson Box.
  • Including subheads before paragraphs.
  • Italicizing relevant URLs.
  • Not going into detail about why I was preselected, or at least being correct about the company name.
  • Using full dollar amounts and avoid decimals, e.g. "$5,000" rather than "$5,000.00".
  • Including a signature with the signatory.
  • Proofreading lettershop samples and verifying data field formats.

Lesson: There is so much wrong with this solo letter package that the lesson here is simple. Don't waste a valuable brand to send poor mail like PayPal did.


Experian: No protection or credit for late mail

The letter was designed well, just late.
This letter from Experian was dated October 7 with an expiration date of October 14 and arrived at the recipient's mailbox on October 17.  Classic Fail for Timing.

A reasonable response window for consumer direct mail is 2-4 weeks.  A renewal communication with this level of urgency might get away with a 1-week response window, but only if the customer actually has a week to respond.
Smart outer envelope

Lesson: Mail early and give your customers adequate time to read and respond to your mail.


DMH Marketing Partners & Mail America: Fails for poor DMA prospecting

The annual Direct Marketing Association (DMA) Conference & Exhibition is this week.   If you have ever attended a DMA conference you know that your registration information is shared with prospective vendors that have a booth.  And what does a good direct marketer do with a prospect mailing list?  Mail, of course!  (Maybe there is a joke here: What is the best way to keep the postal service from going bankrupt.  Have a DMA conference every month!)

Looking through the pre-conference mailbag, this looks like the year for QR codes and iPad2 giveaways.  Some of the mail has both – a QR code where you could win an iPad2 for visiting a booth or purchasing a service.  

This piece utilizes a contest concept to motivate people to visit their booth.  Everyone is a “winner” of something of value up to $25,000.  The disclosure that appears in white-on-blue mouseprint states that the odds of winning the grand prize are 1 in 10 million.  Given that there will be not nearly that many people attending the conference, it should be safe to assume that everyone visiting the booth will "win" free direct mail advertising.  This legally proper but misleading contest merits a Fail for Offer.
Creatively, it is not clear from the postcard who is the sender is -- “360° Marketing” or “Mail America”?  The left side of the postcard includes some explanation of services, but much of the copy is too small to read.

Is the company run by an ant,
or will there be an ant farm in the booth?

This postcard from DMH Marketing Partners is one of the most significant Fails for poor Creative design:
  • One side of the postcard is horizontal-intensive while the other side is vertical-intensive.
  • The postcard is the smallest size possible with primarily a white background, making it difficult to find in the clutter of the dozens of other pre-conference mailers.
  • There is not a clear explanation of what the company does or what services it provides.
  • The only Web address on the page is for the DMA conference.  The Web address for the company does not appear.  (Does this suggest DMH does not want to be found?)
  • The messaging does not appear to have any alignment with the company Website.
  • There is not a compelling reason to visit the booth – no gift, contest, person to meet, or topic to discuss other than the vague opportunity to increase responses.
  • As a woman in my office put it, “That bug is just creepy.” 

The marching bugs in the background did not scan well.
  1. Clearly communicate your offer and value proposition.
  2. Offer a compelling, honest reason for a prospective customer to reach out to you.
  3. Know your competition to develop creative that will be noticed.
  4. If you are going to include an animal, use a cute mammal rather than a creepy bug.