PayPal: Still Shoddy After All These Years

Four years ago, I received a shoddy-looking letter from PayPal informing me that I had been preapproved for a PayPal credit account. I wrote about it in a previous blog post, expressing concerns about overall effectiveness and dilution of PayPal’s brand equity.

PayPal crap
Still Hard to scan + Still Hard to read
+ Still Hard to understand = Still Hard to believe
Last month, I received a similar mailing with a similar style -- blind outer envelope, full-justified copy, black-and-white printing that appears to have been printed on a faded mimeograph, and nearly the exact same copy. Even the first mention of the word “on-line” is hyphenated while the second mention of “on line” in the same paragraph is two words.

The only significant differences appear to be the brand name change from Bill Me Later to PayPal Credit and that PayPal VP Carolyn Groobey no longer associates herself with this solicitation. The signatory is an impersonal “PayPal Credit.”

I find it interesting that PayPal Credit has continually optimized their online tools -- including engaging responsive design and making many of their tools mobile friendly -- yet they continue to use the same shoddy, cheap direct mail solicitation. The quant in me would like to presume that PayPal has run extensive A/B tests and learned that this approach is the most effective. But the right side of my brain is yelling, “How can this cheap creative that looks like a bureaucratic form letter with typos and everything be effective? And how can PayPal allow its brand to be cheapened for so many years! How?!? Why?” 

Is there a lesson here? Perhaps this letter isn’t a Fail for Creative. Maybe the appearance of a poorly created form letter is optimally effective for reaching a credit-worthy (but credit-needy) target market. If so, this is my lesson learned. Or perhaps this is a low-end marketing program that falls under the radar at PayPal headquarters and the lesson is to review your creative content, keep it relevant, don’t let it look lousy, and test it from time to time.

Perhaps the lesson is that, even in the mobile age and at the most tech-forward of companies, there remains a use for direct mail marketing.

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