Don't let your holiday card become Mail that Fails

During my first job out of college, I was fortunate enough to attend the seminar "Winning Direct Mail" led by Joan Throckmorton. One of my key takeaways from her seminar was that successful direct mail should be personal and engaging. This advice should be considered even if the purpose of a communication is simply to recognize a holiday. 

Falling envelopes can make for a happy, snowy holiday.
Much of the holiday mail we receive at work includes a small note or hand-signed signature. It suggests that the sender cares enough about the recipient and their business relationship to personally wish him or her a happy holiday. Sometimes the sender uses the holiday card to show off the company's capabilities, such as this piece from last year, or the following more recent holiday card sent by a major print supplier. 
Inside: Personalization & real signature
This card from Data-Mail intelligently leverages personalization.  Not only is my name personalized on the card, but it appears to be signed by hand. 

In the example below, the print vendor shows off its ability to personalize by including my name in the same typeface and color in the surrounding copy. The back includes a calendar that also demonstrates the ability to personalize content. 

Personalized card, printed signature

Personalized calendar

I consider this card a Fail – in this case for poor list management. The personalized content is for "Marc B." My first name is indeed Marc, and my middle initial is indeed B, but I never refer to myself as "Marc B."  Other people in my office received the same card without a middle initial. I suppose when someone entered my name in the company's database, that person included my middle initial in the first name field. 
The card below is a potential Fail for Creative because it is a greeting card that is neither personal nor engaging.

Was the OE printed on a home PC?
The addresses on the outer envelope were slanted, suggesting it was poorly produced. 
Front cover: hoe, hoe, hoe - funny
Inside: dull & generic
No one signed the card. Was the card from a salesperson, someone I had met at a professional function, someone with whom I used to work, or perhaps an ex-girlfriend? I have a guess, but I'll never know for sure without doing some research. If I don't know the sender, why should I expect the sender to know me or care if I have a happy holiday?
The cover is interesting – with the hoe, hoe, and hoe – but it lacks a humorous payoff inside the card. It simply mentions "Happy Holidays" with a company name.  
A donation will be made in my name to a charity. Nice gesture. But why not choose a charity aligned with the card's theme, such as the Sustainable EarthFoundation?
Lesson: Even business holiday cards should be personal and engaging. If you want to strengthen your business relationships, take a few extra seconds to verify your recipient and sign each card.


Happy Holidays with a Fail from DMA

Even the Direct Marketing Association can have a direct marketing Fail. This one is for Creative. When read in a gmail-style Web browsing interface, the apostrophes and ampersands do not properly appear in body copy. Instead, the reader sees HTML codes such as ‘&#8217’ or ‘&#8212’. I wonder how it would appear if read via America Online.

Lesson: Review and test your email with use on all major email interfaces.