This is a difficult time for everyone. A pandemic is killing tens of thousands of people in the United States, which is why many companies have pulled back on their marketing efforts. Printers and lettershops are having to furlough employees, while their salespeople are aggressively reaching out to find business and keep their web presses running. The USPS is running out of money due to reduced delivery and -- it could be argued -- legacy costs.
In the short term, the USPS has issued many alerts about mail interruption, although they may be understating impacts. I recently heard an anecdote from a lettershop that had a large mailing dropping PFC postage that had to be privately trucked to some regional distribution centers and SCFs because the postal service wasn't able to get the mail on airplanes.
But life goes on -- and so does direct mail marketing. In the past 10 days, my family has received marketing mail from a few companies. We received a coupon mailer from CVS. That makes sense. The stores are open and people still need basic medical supplies and sundries. MetLife mailed me a solicitation for auto insurance. Because of the pandemic, we rarely drive anywhere but, OK, we still need to insure our car and save money.
We received an LL Bean catalog. No surprise -- people still need to wear shoes and clothes. We also received a mailer from locally owned Mojo, offering a "Quarantine Menu" of Latin American-themed food and flavored adult beverages available for pick-up or delivery. That's a smart move.
However, when I received this 20-page mini-catalog from Norwegian Cruise Lines, I thought, "Say, what!?!"
|NCL Cruise Lines|
It has been more than eight weeks since all cruises were halted. That's plenty of time for NCL and its marketing agency to redo or cancel this mailing.
But does that qualify this mailing as a Fail for Timing? Maybe not.
|Page in NCL Brochure|
The NCL brochure includes pictures of places we'd like to be right now, rather than stuck at home constantly refreshing Instacart and Amazon Fresh to see if we can get a grocery delivery window. Although NCL is currently booking cruises through at least summer 2022, the brochure doesn’t mention dates. Perhaps that’s because some near-term cruise dates are likely to be canceled.
I'm reminded of this article from National Geographic. It describes how, during World War II, some companies advertised brands of products that were not available due to rationing and other wartime efforts. So, why advertise? Because they were looking to the future.
"Yet another reason companies ran ads for goods and services that the public couldn't buy or use was to be well positioned at war's end, when an Allied victory was expected to usher in a new era of prosperity.
For many Americans, it was hard to imagine a thriving postwar economy after a decade-long depression and several years of obligatory wartime rationing. This gave companies all the more reason to assure consumers that a booming postwar economy was just over the horizon."
|This looks like a very cool cruise!|
NCL's brochure sells the ability to escape -- pulling strings at our collective aspiration for something better. So, maybe we can't go kayaking on a glacier lake in Alaska this summer. We can believe that we will kayak on that glacier lake someday, and an NCL cruise ship will take us there.
Nonetheless, the self-mailer does merit a call-out Fail for Creative. The website URL was printed as NC.COM/PEACEOFMIND, when it should be NCL.COM/PEACEOFMIND. Perhaps, in the rush to add the mention, NCL overlooked proofreading.
|Invalid URL on back cover|
Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay optimistic.
- You should not presume to discontinue direct marketing during a national crisis, but you should rethink it.
- Always proofread your marketing communications, including late-stage edits. Check and double-check all website URL's.