Direct Marketing Lives (Kind of)

    May 1, 2007

In these days of email marketing, social networking, and other new millennium selling tools, it’s good to see that old fashioned direct marketing still exists. When I retrieved my mail today, I found an intriguing package that looked like a slightly lumpy Express Mail delivery.

When one finds something like this amidst the usual dreck of sales circulars, bills, etc., it’s exciting. At least for a second or two. More careful examination of the package shows that it’s Priority Mail. That’s a lot cheaper than Express Mail, and it explains why nobody rang the doorbell with this important delivery. Still, it’s a lumpy envelope… that implies cool stuff inside. And even Priority Mail costs a few bucks, so it can’t be completely worthless, right?

The label isn’t hand-written, but has a nice custom-typed look to it. And the return address is the Direct Marketing Association. Hmmm… perhaps they decided to recognize my firm’s fine work in the area of Internet marketing? Opening it, I find a classic direct marketing package suggesting I join the DMA. A sales letter, a color flyer, an insert that offers 20% savings, and a packet of bubble gum intended to look like chewing tobacco. The whole thing is held together by a baseball theme. I’ve been “drafted”, the bubble gum was “Big League Chew”, and my company name was at the top of the “Team Lineup” (above a bunch of big DM firms) on the personalized color brochure. All in all, very old school, but nicely done.

A couple of things prevented this piece from hitting the mark. The first is a minor oddity – it arrived the day after the NFL draft when the news was still filled with the stories of the choices football teams made; the mailing piece used a baseball draft theme. I assume the confluence with the NFL draft was a coincidence, but it seemed a bit mistimed.

The major gaffe, though, was a common direct marketing flub – blown personalization. The company name on the invitation was a firm I haven’t been associated with for a couple of years, and the address for that firm was wrong. I’m sure the information came from some kind of free magazine mailing list, but this clearly expensive mailing piece shot itself in the foot by not verifying against a reliable reference list. Somehow, I expected the DMA to target with eerie precision… as it was, they came off looking like any other newbie mailing list renter.

Still, it was good to see an old-fashioned (but still nifty) DM package.