American Red Cross: Is a Blind Envelope Prudent?

You are one of the largest charities in the United States, with over $3 billion in annual expenses. According to Charity Navigator, only one other charity is followed more. When there is a natural disaster, you are there. Your logo is considered one of the most recognizable, one of the best in the world. So why are you hiding your logo?

Blind Outer Envelope
Red Cross Solicitation:
Front of Outer Envelope

That’s what I’m asking myself after receiving this charity solicitation from the American Red Cross. Every other charity solicitation I have received this holiday season included a message on the envelope -- what is known in industry jargon as a teaser. However, this Red Cross solicitation not only did not include a teaser, the envelope was completely blind. There is no indication that this is from the Red Cross, not even a return address.
Back of Outer Envelope
Is this a Fail for Creative? I don’t know. Intuitively, I think so. But I can’t be a focus group of one because I'm so enthusiastic about direct mail marketing, I open and read everything I receive (besides, the concept of being a focus group of one is dangerous). 

There are several schools of thought on whether teasers make sense. Some POVs from people with non-profit direct mail experience include this blog post suggesting that, because most teasers are simply not very good, a non-profit is better off without one. A similar POV from Mary Chalane suggests that, if a non-profit uses a teaser, it needs to be worthwhile. 
Donation Solicitation Letter front

Donation Solicitation Letter back
I agree with these opinions conceptually -- a bad teaser is worse than no teaser -- but couldn’t Red Cross creatively develop a good teaser? If not, shouldn’t Red Cross at least include its well-known, appreciated logo in the outer envelope return address area? 

Front of Business Reply Envelope
includes branding in color

Back of Business Reply Envelope

Perhaps Red Cross A/B tested the blind envelope against one with a teaser. Perhaps it tested against several teasers and an envelope displaying only their logo, and the blind envelope kept winning. If the test took place in the summer, perhaps it should try testing against a holiday-themed envelope in December when consumers’ hearts and checkbooks are more likely to be open.

My creative intuition could be right, or it could be wrong. The only way to know for sure is to test. Happy holidays.


  1. Know your strength of your brand.
  2. Maintain a Control package, but test against it at times relevant to your audience.