Bad Direct Mail

This is in no way meant to be a criticism of the validity, necessity, or mission of the organization, but they are in serious need of help with their direct mail campaign.  


Yesterday I received a very unfortunate piece of mail from them. Let me take a moment to describe it. It arrived in 6.5″ x 9.5″ white envelope. The envelope had both the return and mailing addresses printed on white (Avery 5160) mailing labels, and they were accompanied by three postage stamps. The stamps were placed haphazardly, facing every which way in an arc somewhere in the middle of the envelope, not in a nice, uniform row on the upper right-hand corner as they should be. Based on aesthetics alone, I was not excited about opening it. On top of the obvious lack of effort put into the envelope, the name of the sender on the return address was unfamiliar to me. I realized the date was that of the Armenian Genocide, but I knew of no organization with that name and was unsure as to why I was receiving mail from such a place. 


When I opened the envelope I pulled out a large sticker and an unevenly folded sheet of white 8.5″ x 11″ copy paper. The sticker read Pay Attention, Take Action, History Gets Repeated, the Armenian Genocide.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit, the sticker was pretty eye grabbing. It was red and black with white san serif lettering and was large enough to be read from quite a distance if placed on your car, which I assume was the intent.  The white copy paper accompanying the sticker, however, was less than inspiring. It was a photo-copied donation form, asking me to participate in their campaign at one of many giving levels.  The form wasn’t personalized nor did it take time to explain the purpose of their campaign, the mission of their organization, where my money would go, if my donation would be tax deductible, or anything else a normal solicitation would and should. It was also full of poor grammar and misspellings, which is pretty bad in my book. 


Perhaps they believed their purpose was self-explanatory, thought the grammar was ok, and had a volunteer assemble the mailing. If they hope to be successful they need to realize their purpose is not self-explanatory, poor grammar is not ok, and you need to watch your volunteers as they work. You do not need to tell your organization’s life story in every mailing, but there needs to be some sort of clear call to action. Something as simple as “Help spread the word about the Armenian Genocide by sponsoring our Sticker Drive,” would have been a step in the right direction.  I’m not saying that’s pure advertising gold, but anything more descriptive would have helped their cause, especially in a piece which is attempting to acquire new donors. 


My advice to them, if they are unable to afford a consultant or direct mail company to manage their future campaigns, is the following:


  • Develop a clear mission
  • Develop a clear, concise call to action that tugs at heartstrings
  • Pay attention to detail
  • Go through several rounds of text proofing before sending anything out
  • Closely supervise volunteers
  • Collect samples of other direct mail campaigns and borrow ideas

This is in no way meant to be a complete how-to on direct mail. Believe it or not direct mail is a science based on research and trends. The items I pointed out above were merely the beginning in a long list of dos and don’ts. I hope I have not offended anyone with this post and I wish the best of luck in this campaign and future campaigns.

Published by Brian

Christian, husband, father, Pepperdine alum, marketing account manager and more. Passionate about music, movies, religion, communication, nonprofits and the Lakers.

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