Showing posts with label timing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label timing. Show all posts

7/23/2022

Jockey: Late Recognition Of Getting In My Pants

After months of COVID lockdown and isolation, I was finally going to set foot outside of Queens. My wife and I arranged for a weekend getaway upstate at a bed-and-breakfast with plenty of ventilation, air filtration and outdoor seating. It was our anniversary and, pandemic or not, we wanted to make it special. 

We brought masks, gloves, sanitizer, and more sanitizer. I packed a rag and Lysol disinfectant just to give our room a once-over when we arrived. We brought packaged food in case the nearby restaurants were too busy. After confirming all the details and driving north for a few hours, I realized had I forgotten my mother's advice: Always pack clean underwear. Sorry, Mom!

I discovered a Jockey outlet store near our B&B. It had reopened from COVID lockdown the day before our trip. So, on our anniversary, we stopped at the store for a couple pairs of jockeys. The store manager, also wearing a mask and plastic gloves, understood that I wasn't familiar with the brand and helped me pick out something comfortable in my size. 

The manager apologized that not all price tags were up to date as the store was shorthanded and had just reopened. No worries, I said; just ring me up. She asked to put me on the email list with an offer of an instant discount on my in-store purchase. I agreed, providing my email address.

That was two years ago. I haven't purchased anything from Jockey since then. (The underwear is fine; I simply don't need any more.)

In May of this year, I received an email with a Subject Line of "Thank you for joining Jockey Rewards!

New Jockey Rewards

New Jockey Rewards

New Jockey Rewards
Jockey Rewards Introduction Email, May, 2022

The wording of that subject line makes it seem like I recently joined the Jockey Rewards program, which is not the case. Perhaps giving the manager my email address in that outlet store two years ago had enrolled me in an older version of the program and I had now been auto-enrolled in the current program. This supposition is based on the answer on the Jockey's reward program FAQ:

Jockey Rewards FAQ
First FAQ at jockey.com/rewards mentioning "new and improved rewards program"

So, the program is "new and improved." OK. Perhaps. But since I hadn't just joined the program, better subject lines would include:

Welcome to the new Jockey Rewards!

We've improved Jockey Rewards!

Other than the confusing subject line, the email is nicely done: on brand, communicative, friendly and persuasive. Overall, the email doesn't deserve a Fail for Creative. Perhaps it merits a C+.

Lesson:
Your subject line should be relevant to your customer.


5/15/2022

Pacific Magazine Billing: Even a Scam Can Be Mail That Fails

Remember the good ol' days when penny candy was only $5 a pound? Back then Entertainment Weekly actually published an issue every week. 

Those good ol' days lasted until about three years ago. In August 2019, Entertainment Weekly went monthly -- lasting only until the April 2022 issue before ceasing print publication for good. Ah, well, I used to enjoy reading their "Must List" on the subway.

About six weeks after EW's last issue, I received this envelope package from Pacific Magazine Billing. (Normally, when I first mention a company, I include a hyperlink to the company's website; however, there is no website to be found.) 

Pacific Magazine Billing not-a-bill for Entertainment Weekly

Pacific Magazine Billing not-a-bill - EW Back
Not-A-Bill for cancelled publication

The "NOTICE OF RENEWAL / NEW ORDER OFFER" was for two years of Entertainment Weekly for the low, low price of only $99.95. The Terms and Conditions call out that this is "just an offer and not a bill ..." but it sure looks like a bill. 

Outer Envelope

Pretty Simple Reply Envelope

A lot of sites declare Pacific Magazine Billing to be a scam such as here, here, here, here, here and -- well, you get the idea. Sometimes a scam is a scam but might still be legal. I don't know; I'm not a lawyer. I do know that a scam mail package is naturally a Fail for Creative. But this package isn't only an apparent scam; it is Fail for Timing. I mean, it is pushing for a subscription renewal for a defunct publication. 

Alas, I "Must Not."

Lesson:
If you are going to scam, scam smartly. 


12/16/2021

Athletic Greens: Landing page does not work out

For more than a decade, I've written about the four pillars of a successful direct marketing campaign: Targeting, Offer, Creative and Timing (TOCT). But there is something that binds these pillar together: Execution.

If you properly thought through your TOCT and planned your work, execution is working the plan. To execute successful, everything should work the way it should.

Which brings us to Athletic Greens. I recently received this self-mailer:
Athletic Greens
Cover panel

Athletic Greens
Address panel, with offer URL


Athletic Greens
Inside panel



Athletic Greens
Sales panels
Athletic Greens


Creatively, this is quite a good piece for the category. The paper stock is thick, making it stand out in the clutter of mail. The message are simple and straightforward. The Call to Action is to subscribe to receive dietary supplements by visiting www.athleticgreens.com/startag1 and taking advantage of an offer for new customers. When I tried it, the URL did not work. 
Athletic Greens
Non-functional landing page


Because the landing page was non-functional, this otherwise compelling self-mailer merits a Fail for Execution. If customers can't get the offer they were promised, why would they trust the product?

And it's not like a prospective customer can easily call to take advantage of the offer. The self-mailer lacks a phone number. Sure, there is one on a page buried in the web site (888-390-4029), but that is listed as "Customer Service." Are there no salespeople available? I believe this approach of mailing an offer without a phone number as a secondary call to action is pennywise and pound foolish. It may merit a Fail for Creative.

I received the self-mailer 10 days before Christmas, a time when people are thinking about indulging for the holidays, visiting family and friends, and end-of-year financial activities. A typical mailbox is full of charity solicitations, catalogs and holiday cards. Is this really a time to mail an offer related to personal self-improvement that attempts to motivate people to change their dietary habits? I think no, and that this could be a Fail for Timing

If I planned this campaign, I would have timed the maildrop with an in-home date three weeks later, e.g., the first week of January. I would have also tested the landing page before mailing.

Lessons:
  1. When you include a web address on your solicitation, make sure it works.
  2. When using snail mail to sell your product, don't assume people will go online to response. Include a phone number in your Call to Action.
  3. Carefully consider the impact of seasonality when timing your mailing.






10/11/2021

Hooters: Timing and Grammar Matter

This birthday email from Hooters merits a Fail for Timing and a Fail for Creative.  

The email informs the recipient that he has "10 Free Wings (Birthday)" and that his offer will expire in "1 days."

Hooters Birthday email - after the fact
Hooters Birthday email
arrived well after the birthday


The recipient's birthday was in late August. He did not receive a communication about his free wings prior to his birthday or on his birthday. The first time he found out he had the opportunity to have free Hooters wings served to him (presumably by a "Hooters Girl") was on September 20 -- one day before the offer expired. 

The opening of the email reads:

Just a friendly reminder that your 10 Free Wings (Birthday) is about to expire. Come in and redeem your offer before it expires in 1 days.

This brief paragraph would read better as:

Just a friendly reminder that your 10 Free Wings offer for your birthday is about to expire. Come in and redeem your offer before it expires tomorrow.

One might joke about the sentences being written by a Hooters Girl, but that would be insulting to smart women who take the job. Regardless, it appears to me that the sentence was written by a someone using rudimentary mail merge software. The first sentence identifies the type of free offer in parenthesis. The programming of the second sentence did not take into account that the number of days may be a singular number. 

Let's hope the wings are better than the grammar. 

Lessons:

  1. Recognizing a customer's birthday is a useful way to engage a customer, but only if properly executed.
  2. When using numerical values in your communications, make sure to account for values that are not plural.

7/25/2021

Sorry, I’m late to ask for your vote

In New York City, our primary election for local offices took place on June 22, with early voting taking place June 12 through June 20.

Stringer should have been ready and in the mail before Day One

I received eight oversized postcards from political candidates between June 23 and July 6. A couple of them are shown here. 

This postcard arrived on 6 days after the election, e.g. it is trash

These are Fails for Timing. I want to say, "Sorry, New York City does not offer late voting."

Lesson:

When producing mail for a political candidate, mail early and mail often.

12/15/2020

FTD Flowers: A Mistake and a Quickly Wilting Apology

In a single day last week, I received five emails from FTD Flowers, each with a different subject line:

  1. Psst... Someone Special's Birthday is 5 Days Away
  2. Share The Love ❤️ An Important Anniversary Is In 7 Days!
  3. 🌹🌹🌹 3 More Days To Order Anniversary Flowers! 🌹🌹🌹
  4. Someone Special's Birthday is TOMORROW!
  5. Someone Special's Birthday is 7 Days Away!

Here is an example of one of those five emails.

FTD Anniversary Coming Email
1 of 5 emails I received on 12/9/20

That evening, when I read the first one, I was confused. Whose birthday was in 5 days? According to my Google calendar, the only person I could find with a birthday that day was a former business colleague. We were friends, but not close enough that I'd send him flowers. I checked my FTD purchase history and found nothing for this timeframe. Hmm, I thought -- maybe I need to dig up my old personal calendar I last used during the Clinton administration. 

The next email reminded me of an important anniversary in seven days. It wasn't between my wife and me -- we had a June wedding. It wasn't my parents' or my siblings'. I was confused.

By time I read the third email, I realized something was off with FTD. So, I ignored the forth and fith emails. Ah, well, I thought, we all make mistakes. I categorized this as a Fail for Timing and figured that FTD incorrectly sent those emails.

The next day, I received an email from FTD with a subject line of "Ooops! Hit Send WAY Too Soon 😬". I correctly guessed that FTD had realized their mistake.  

FTD apology email
Apology Email Sent 12/10/20
25% Discount Expired 12/11/20

FTD had quickly recognized its issue, admitted the error, and offered an explanation and an apology. This is a thoughtful approach, similar to what Amazon did several years ago when it sent out a BCS Championship winner merchandise email early

But FTD went a step further ... sort of. The apology email on December 10 included an offer of 25% off my next purchase "to show our appreciation for your understanding." I state, "sort of" because, buried in the email's disclosure, was information stating that the 25% discount would expire just before midnight on December 11 -- and that was the next day.

*Offer expires at 11:59 p.m. CT on 12/11/2020 or while supplies last. Quantities may be limited. All discounts shown. Discounts are not applicable on: (i) product customizations including vases or product add-ons, (ii) FTD Membership fees, (iii) gift card purchases, (iv) service, delivery or shipping fees and applicable taxes, (v) special collections including Nambé, Baccarat or other special collections designed by FTD, and (vi) all "Gifts"under $24.99 or products under $19.99. Discounts cannot be combined. Offers may be subject to change without notice. See www.ftd.com for additional details.

The apology email merits Fails for both Offer and Creative. The Fail for Offer is because the discount window less than 38 hours after the apology email was sent. That's barely enough time for a customer to react to the email and make a purchase. The Fail for Creative is because a customer has to read the fine print to realize this, thus the apology appears to be disingenuous. 

When an offer with a short response window does not message the offer expiration date in the body of the communication, the seller risks customer dissatisfaction -- the type that motivates a customer to shop elsewhere. Or, to put it bluntly, if you pee on a customer's leg and tell them it's raining, that customer will not buy an umbrella from you.

Lessons:

  1. If you make a mistake, own up to the error.
  2. When making amends for a mistake, offer a genuine goodwill gesture.
  3. If your offer expires quickly, you should communicate that fact in the body of a communication, not bury it in a disclosure.

10/12/2020

Merrell: Well-timed offer lacks expiration clarity

A recent conversation at home went like this:

Me: "Hey, honey, did you say you needed new hiking shoes?"

Wife: "Eventually. Mine are starting to wear. Why?"

Me: "We got an offer in the mail from Merrell for 25% off footwear."

Merrell One Year Discount Offer

Merrell One Year Discount Offer - 25% Off

Wife: "Well, I do like Merrell, but I don't plan to use hiking shoes in the next few weeks. Maybe I should get replacements now with the discount. When does the coupon expire?"

Me: "It doesn't say."

Wife: "Really?"

Me: "I'll look closer." (Puts on reading glasses.) "It says it expires '30 days from postmark.'"

Wife: "When is that?"

Me: "I don't know. It's not postmarked."

Wife: "Well, whatever, I don't need new hiking shoes right away and I'm pretty busy right now."

This conversation outlines why the postcard merits a Fail for Creative

On September 13, 2019, I purchased a pair of Merrell Moab 2 hiking shoes. They are perfect for that outdoor hike around the lake, through a park or in the snow. The postcard arrived October 2, 2020, just a little over a year after I started wearing my previous purchase. So, the timing and messaging around my "Merrell anniversary" are spot on. Kudos to Merrell for Timing.

The postcard included a personalized coupon code for 25% savings; however, there is no mention in the headline regarding when the coupon code expires. I found some information in the disclosure.*

Merrell One Year Discount Offer - 25% Off
Postcard disclosure text

As I wrote in prior blog posts such as this one and this one, a Call to Action should include a clearly communicated offer expiration date. This is important: The right response window encourages immediacy of customer action; one that's faulty or unclearly defined, however, only encourages inertia.

With the Merrell postcard, the coupon code's expiration date is not only buried in the disclosure, it also references expiring "30 days from postmark"; however, there is no postmark. Postcards mailed Standard Rate are not postmarked by the USPS. So, how do customers know when the coupon code expires? They don't.

There are several ways to care for expiration date communication without jeopardizing the integrity of the message, diluting Merrell's branding or adding production costs. Here is one: Include an offer expiration date in the address section of the postcard. 

Merrell postcard mock-up, modified to add expiration date
Mock-up. I added the expiration date in the address panel

In the above mock-up, the coupon code expiration date is clearly communicated. The date is specific and reasonably prominent. The messaging complements the headline and supports immediate action. It can be inkjet- or laser-personalized using the same variable data method as the producing the coupon code and customer name and address. Depending on the postcard's production method, it could appear in spot color without incremental print expenses.

If Merrell adapts this approach, the only incremental edit would be to rephrase the disclosure to reference the expiration date in the address panel.

Lessons:

  1. Your call to action should include a clearly communicated, definitive offer expiration date.
  2. Postcards mailed Standard Rate are not postmarked.


* Many people mistakenly refer to small print associated with marketing communications as a disclaimer, when in fact it is a disclosure. According to dictionary.com, a ‘disclaimer’ is “the act of disclaiming; the renouncing, repudiating, or denying of a claim; disavowal” while a ‘disclosure’ is “the act or an instance of disclosing; exposure; revelation.” ‘Disclose’ is defined as “to make known; reveal or uncover” From a Marketing standpoint, a disclaimer is an admission that the headline is false – otherwise why renounce it? However, a disclosure provides secondary but relevant facts of an offer. So the only reason an offer or marketing communication would require a disclaimer is if it was misleading from the onset.



9/16/2020

Upstep: Labor Day Sale Ending, Then Starting

Last year, I wrote about Upstep's 9/11 "Patriot Day" sale on custom orthotic insoles. This year, Upstep had a Labor Day sale. While not as distasteful sale as last year's, their recent series of emails merits Fails for Creative and Timing.

The first email arrived Wednesday, September 2, with the Subject Line "Labour Day Sale Extended!! Last Chance!!"
Upstep Labor Day Email 1

Not only did it arrive a few days prior to Labor Day, the header opens with "Labour". While that is not necessarily a misspelling, it is rarely spelled as such in the United States (where this reader and presumably the company is located). However, the body of the email spells the word as "Labor". So, the spelling is even consistent within the same communication. 

The phone number appears in the style of (xxx) xxxxxxx. It is missing a dash after the third digit. That does not align with the style recommend by google and elsewhere for U.S. phone numbers.

Furthermore, the email communicates a Labor sale being extended prior to there being an email communicating that the sale was starting.

Upstep's second Labor Day email arrived Saturday, September 5:
Upstep: Labor Day email

The timing is on point. However, the graphics (which appear better aligned with Independence Day) do not seem to match the timing. Perhaps a picture of a family picnic or a person standing in front of a barbecue grill would be more relevant -- and the representation of a person standing up in comfortable shoes would tie to the product proposition.

The phone number in this email appears in the style of xxx.xxxx.xxx. While I've often seen phone numbers with the format of xxx.xxx.xxxx, I've not seen one where the second dot is after the seventh digit.

The third Labor Day Sale email arrived the day after Labor Day, Tuesday, September 8:
Upstep: Labor Day Sale extended

The Subject Line is "Here's 2 more days to save". OK, grammatically off a bit, but not a bad use of immediacy and scarcity of time when offering savings.  The Call to Action of "Start Now" is odd, thought, because there the body of the email lacks supporting copy to explain what a customer might be starting.

Again, the phone number is in the unusual style of xxx.xxxx.xxx. 

The fourth Labour, er, Labor Day Sale email arrived Friday, September 11:
Upstep: Labor Day Sale email #4


This appears to be almost identical as the first email on September 2. The Subject Line, copy, and even the phone number style are the same. 

Upstep's fifth Labor Day Sale email arrived Saturday, September 13:
Upstep: Labor Day email #5

The phone number appears in the style of (xxx) xxxxxxx. Dashes, anyone?

Only the fourth and fifth emails provide a street address for Upstep -- 30 Chapman Road in Pine Brook, NJ. I looked it up on Google Maps, and it appears to be a light industrial complex. There is no mention of Upstep (or an agency acting on behalf of Upstep) being located here. This seeming lack of transparency might give pause to potential customers who are researching the company

In countries other than the United States, Labor Day takes place on different dates. Did Upstep get confused about when it happens in the U.S.? Is "Samantha," the person mentioned in some of the emails, a real person not originally from the States? I can only speculate about whether the writing style is international or just sloppy. Recipients might ask themselves those questions and hesitate to purchase from the company.

Is this nitpicky? Perhaps. But, when timing details are missed and unfamiliar communication styles are used, a reader is less likely to trust the content of the marketing communication and make a purchase.

Lessons:
  1. When having a holiday sale, time your emails appropriate to the holiday and use imagery appropriate to the holiday. 

  2. Your writing nomenclature, including phone numbers, should be appropriate to the local market.

7/06/2020

PenFed Credit Union: Not Military Precision

I recently received this solicitation from PenFed Credit Union, whose formal name (according to Wikipedia) is Pentagon Federal Credit Union -- a name that aligns with the company’s pentagon-shaped logo

The solicitation letter is pretty typical for mid-tier credit card providers: window envelope with teaser; letter with Johnson Box; clear Call to Action; Schumer Box; buckslip insert reinforcing benefits and the call to action; and required credit prescreen opt-out notice.


PenFed Federal Credit Union






The first line of the disclosure on the front of the letter reads, “To receive any advertised product, you must become a member of the PenFed Credit Union.” I originally thought this might be a Fail for Targeting since I have never worked in the military services or at the Pentagon and thus, I thought, would not be eligible for membership. The letter itself does not mention membership criteria, and I also could not find a mention on the main pages of their website or their sitemap. I did, however, find some information about membership eligibility from third-party websites such as on WalletHub; from there, I returned to a page that listed Affinity Partners

On affinity partner pages such as this one related to the American Red Cross, there is some copy that reads:

"Congratulations! As an employee, retiree, or volunteer of the American Red Cross you are eligible for PenFed membership! How does PenFed define volunteer? A volunteer is anyone who provides time, talent, or treasure. Time is the hours volunteering for the organization, talent is the unique skills a volunteer brings to the organization, and treasure is both financial and blood donations."

Aha! I am eligible for PenFed Credit Union membership because I supported the American Red Cross. Perhaps the Red Cross shared my contact information with PenFed in hopes that I would become a member and the Red Cross would receive some benefit for the referral. If I am correct -- and, perhaps even if I'm not -- the letter merits a Fail for Creative because the letter lacks an explanation of membership eligibility. 

The letter should explain membership eligibility and how broadly they define it. Even a couple lines along the lines of "We support people who serve the military but also offer membership benefits to tens of thousands of other people who support the military or one of our affinity partners." Or, if I received this offer because of my history of American Red Cross support, why not call that out? Touting affinity relationships helped make MBNA America successful -- perhaps that approach could work for the credit union.

At the very least, PenFed should add a page on its website explaining membership criteria -- a page that is indexed by Google, easy to find and easy to understand. This easy-to-find page on Affinity Federal Credit Union's website is a good template.

Also, is this offer a Fail for Timing? According to CNBC and other news sources, many banks are cutting back on balance transfer offers during these extraordinary times. Perhaps the credit union has a contrary view of where the economy is headed. Or, maybe it has reviewed its current membership pool and credit prescreen criteria and has taken a different view of credit default risk. Or, maybe the credit union had planned this campaign long in advance, and just decided to move forward.

Lessons:
  1. If soliciting members for your credit union's credit card, include language that suggests the person is not only eligible for the credit card, but also eligible to join the credit union.
  2. Membership eligibility for a credit union should be easy to find.
  3. Consider whether a pandemic is a good time to offer 0% balance transfers.

5/18/2020

Norwegian Cruise Lines: Come Sail Away With Me!


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!?!
Direct Mail May, 2020
Direct Mail, May, 2020
NCL Cruise Lines
Brochure Covers
Are consumers really thinking about going on a cruise after all the news about cruise ship passengers getting sick and dying from COVID-19, or that more than 70,000 cruise ship employees are still stuck at sea, some killing themselves. In this catalog, the only reference to the pandemic is peripheral. It reads: "Book Today with Norwegian's Peace of Mind And Change Plans As Needed. Learn more at NC.COM/PEACEOFMIND."

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. 

Direct Mail, May, 2020
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."

Direct Mail, May, 2020, Alaska
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.
Direct Mail, May, 2020, invalid URL
Invalid URL on back cover

Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay optimistic.

Lessons:
  1. You should not presume to discontinue direct marketing during a national crisis, but you should rethink it.
  2. Always proofread your marketing communications, including late-stage edits. Check and double-check all website URL's.

4/05/2020

Santander Bank: Creative Improvements, Lousy Timing


Last May, I wrote about a postcard I received from Santander Bank that merited a Fail forCreative because it promoted an incentive but lacked a conspicuous explanation of how to earn the incentive.

Santander Bank self-mailer
Santander Bank self-mailer
Cover panel
Santander Bank self-mailer
Address panel


Santander’s small roll-fold self-mailer that I received on April 2 here in New York City, however, includes elements lacking in last year’s postcard.

Santander Bank self-mailer
Offer Panels


This recent self-mailer includes a clear call to action. In fact, performing the desired action comes across as easy as 1, 2, 3.  The self-mailer includes a conspicuous explanation of what is required to enjoy the $300 incentive, with supplemental information in the disclosure. There is adequate space for benefits messaging, an easy-to-read Promotion Code, and the location of the nearest branch.

Santander Bank self-mailer
Promotion Code and Bank Branch Location


However, as I write this, the nearest branch listed on the postcard has been closed for two weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than two thousand people in New York City have succumbed to the virus. The Big Apple is in lockdown. Is this really when a consumer might consider switching the bank where their paycheck is deposited? Many consumers around here won’t even have a paycheck in a couple weeks; many others will be deceased.

So, this self-mailer is a Fail For Timing. At the very least, it can come across as callous. But should one blame Santander? It could be that the self-mailer was mailed before things got bad. When mailing Standard Rate, there is a lag time between maildrop and in-home date – sometimes a few business days, sometimes a few weeks. As we’ve seen, the world can change a lot in that short time.

Several years ago, I launched a direct mail campaign offering prospective customers around Philadelphia savings on their electricity supply costs. Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy started up the East Coast after the maildrop. The mail reached the target market while the hurricane was disrupting power to many homes. Who knew?

Santander Bank self-mailer disclosure panel
Disclosures updated as of 2/29/20

The disclosure includes an as-of date of February 29, which suggests the self-mailer was printed in early March. If it was mailed prior to March 10, I would say"Who knew?" 

Or maybe the mail dropped closer to March 20, which means the bank knew about the pandemic hitting the United States but decided to mail anyway. If so, a decision should have been made to pull the mail rather than commit an unforced error because – even though the mail had been printed and personalized – the campaign could have been halted. Doing so would have meant postage money could be saved for a better timed mailing, and would have prevented bad optics.

Lessons:
  1. Your Call to Action should be conspicuous and easy to understand.
  2. Sometimes planned marketing efforts can be impacted by unforeseen events.
  3. There are occasions when you may need to pull mail at the last minute. Maintain the decision-making capability and flexibility to do so.



3/31/2020

Coronavirus Guidelines for America: Late and Hard to Read

I received a postcard with “PRESIDENT TRUMP’S CORONAVIRUS GUIDELINES FOR AMERICA.” It was dated March 16 and arrived in my New York City mailbox on March 28.

COVID-19
Coronavirus Guidelines
Mailed Standard Rate
Let’s look at this postcard from a direct mail marketing perspective. The primary objective of the postcard is to motivate people to take action to prevent getting the virus that causes COVID-19, while the secondary objective is to motivate readers to visit coronavirus.gov for more information. It merits a Fail for Creative for a few reasons.
  • White text on a black background is neither easy to print nor read, especially in italics at 9-point font size. 

COVID-10
If you can read the good hygiene tips, you don't need glasses.

  • The Call to Action to visit coronavirus.gov is visually lost.
    • On the address side, below a couple graphical icons, the website is suggested as a place to go for more information
    • On the copy side, it sits in the corner without a description of the site or a reason to visit it. It is in a good location relative to the layout of the postcard—and bold compared to most of the other content; however, the line starting “EVEN IF YOU ARE YOUNG,” with a blue background, is what draws a reader.

Perhaps the small postcard is trying to accomplish too much in too little space.

Lessons:
  1. If your copy is small, make sure you have proper color contrast.
  2. Make your call to action prominent.


[Edit: Removed commontary about postal rate used, as this was mailed EDDM.]

3/01/2020

American Red Cross: No longer blind


A little over two months ago, I wrote about receiving a solicitation from the Red Cross in a blind envelope right in the middle of the traditional giving season. Last week, I received a similar solicitation but with a corporate envelope.

Where the envelope in December had no hint of branding, this envelope is unmistakably from the American Red Cross. The teaser message reminds me that my donation helps the Red Cross respond to more than 60,000 disasters a year.

American Red Cross
Red Cross Solicitation:
Fully Branded Outer Envelope
The letter inside is exactly the same as the December letter. The only update is the mailing date.

Red Cross Charity Solicitation Letter
Donation Solicitation Letter front
multichannel engagement
Donation Solicitation Letter back
Request for email address circled

As a direct marketing professional, my gut tells me that the blind envelope was part of an A/B Test and this is the Control, but that is just a hunch. Perhaps the plan was for the holiday solicitation to be blind to differentiate it from the multitude of charity mailers that typically arrive in December. The mailbox is not as busy in February, the thinking would go, so now is time to show that logo again.

I wonder if it is also time for increased multichannel engagement. This is a direct mail letter requesting a mailed-back, completed response form. There is also an online donation option; however, the mention of that is in small type.

No one wants to mess with a successful Control package (if this is it); however, it may be time to consider that the internet is useful for many things, including donor engagement. Buried on the back of the form  below the input field for credit card information  is a request for email address. Instead, why not, on the front of the form, ask all donors for their email address to share stories of the Red Cross coming to the aid of disaster survivors? Rather than treating this solicitation as solo mail in a vacuum, include a link to the American Red Cross YouTube channel or the local Red Cross as a means of encouraging engagement?

Business Reply Envelope

Perhaps that could be their next A/B Test.



Lessons:

1.      Test your most successful direct mail packages. Let new presumptions challenge your assumptions.
2.      We live in an omnichannel world. Don’t use direct mail in a vacuum – integrate it with your other engagement channels.