A Good Example of Bad Envelope Marketing Gimmicks That Make Customers Angry

Envelope Marketing Gimmick
Envelope Marketing Gimmick | Source

Honesty in Advertising is Always Best

As a real estate broker for over two decades, I learned that the most important thing about direct marketing is to be honest and respectful in advertising. I advertised promotions like, “FREE Market Analysis Inside!” and “Free Consultation” on the outside of envelopes. This type of advertising is meant to get the recipient to open the envelope. And, I always deliver on the promise. Instinct tells me that if I deceive a person into opening an envelope, that person is likely to be offended and highly unlikely to become a client.

Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

Negative Response to a Bad Envelope Marketing Gimmick

I received an envelope from a popular consumer magazine publisher. The envelope had marketing information that I feel went against the concept of honesty and respect.

The object of marketing efforts, of course, is to get the envelope opened. I get this, but sometimes the gimmicks marketers use are not effective. In fact, in some cases gimmicks can backfire and cause the person who opened the envelope to feel duped and unfulfilled upon opening the envelope and reading the contents.

Envelope Marketing Gimmick

Urgent Envelope Marketing Gimmick
Urgent Envelope Marketing Gimmick | Source

The Envelope
Duped! That’s how I felt when I recently opened an envelope marked URGENT. The envelope was addressed to me and had a blazing red sticker with the words VERIFIED MAIL and URGENT written on the sticker.

The mail piece came from a popular magazine company trying to get me to subscribe to their magazine. This particular company is not just a magazine publisher, but it is also a company that provides real estate and other services.

At first, I was concerned. The label with the hot red color and the words VERIFIED MAIL and URGENT caused me to believe I was receiving a letter informing me of a matter that needed my urgent attention, like an unpaid bill.

To increase the urgency and to assure I would open the envelope, printed on the envelope were the words, “RE: NOTIY ADDRESSEE OF RATE REDUCTION.” Now, I was curious. The message on the exterior of the envelope made it seem like I had an offer to receive a rate reduction on a current obligation, like a credit card.

I don’t like envelopes addressed like this. Yes. The marketing strategy worked. Concern and curiosity got my attention and I opened the envelope.

Gimmicks Draw Attention

Envelopes with gimmicks draw attention. The letter carrier sees it. And, on those many occasions when letters get delivered to the wrong address, the neighbors also see it.

Well, I must admit that the envelope got my attention, but not in the way the marketer wanted. If I compare this to other negative things that happen in my life, this is not all that detrimental to my life. But, I respond in a big way because, from time to time, my mail is delivered to the wrong house. On most occasions it is not a problem. The neighbors are good about re-delivering mis-delivered mail. The reason I make this a big deal now is because this envelope is made to look like an urgent matter about a bill. People don't take time to verify things. And people gossip. People love to spread bad news. Sure, my neighbors hand my mail to me when it is accidentally delivered to their house. But, everyone likes to be the one to deliver juicy gossip. Imagine the neighbor who diligently delivered my mail to me is now running around the neighborhood talking and asking rhetorical questions like, “Did you know Marlene is late on her mortgage?” Once the gossip trail begins, I don’t have a way to correct the erroneous information and clear my name because at first it happens behind my back and there is no telling how many people have heard the “news.”

Bad Envelope Marketing Gimmicks Fail to Obtain Customers

If the marketer is trying to get my business, the marketer failed. I’m not even a customer and the marketer is sending advertising information inside a menacing-looking envelope with the same type of labels and verbiage that debt collectors use. The marketer is using verbiage that suggests the content inside the envelope requires my immediate attention, or possibly that I am late on a bill.

Use Caution When Including Messages on Envelopes

I would never send advertisement in an envelope like this. It is bad marketing. Sure, it got me to open the envelope. But, I only opened it to see why the company was indicating I was late on a bill.

This kind of marketing creates lasting negative feelings. Because they use tactics that tricked me, I would not want to do business with that company.

I don’t mind marketing on the outside of envelopes. Marketing is the name of the game. But, if a company wants my business, their direct marketing envelope must be true to the offer.

Direct Marketing Association

All companies, whether members or not must comply with the high standards of the Direct Marketing Association. Consumers can File a General Ethics Complaint for any company they feel is practicing deceptive advertising.

Direct Marketing Association

Many companies that make offers directly to consumers are members of a trade organization called the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). Members of the DMA abide by specific rules and regulations regarding marketing to the general public. The Direct Marketing Association believes in responsible marketing and stands against solicitations that are misleading or deceptive. The DMA ethics committee reviews solicitations of its members. This committee frowns on companies that advertise misleading offers on official looking envelopes.

The goal of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) is to make sure consumers’ rights are protected. The DMA encourages fair and honest marketing practices, in fact the DMA asks companies to use caution when advertising to consumers. Companies that do not comply with the DMA's practices cannot be members of this consumer protection organization.

The DMA is the leading trade association for business organizations using direct marketing techniques. The DMA advocates industry standards for responsible marketing to ensure that consumer rights are protected.

Further Reading Regarding Gimmicks and Envelope Marketing:

"Create a sense of urgency. Time-limited offers get customers moving to contact you and buy.”

— Rieva Lesonsky

Use Caution When Placing Marketing Messages on Envelopes

Whether you are a large or small company, marketing is an important tool to help generate customers. Creative messages that entice the consumer to open the envelope are wise and acceptable. However, messages that are crude or imply a false sense of urgency are not only distasteful; they are disrespectful to the consumer. There is nothing wrong with creating a sense of urgency, but creating a false sense of urgency is upsetting to consumers. Such tactics may obtain the objective of getting the consumer to open the envelope, but may backfire and create an upset or angry consumer.

Use caution when placing marketing messages on envelopes. Be true. Be honest. Deliver on the promise offered on the outside of the envelope.

© 2015 Marlene Bertrand

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Comments 30 comments

MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 15 months ago from Northern California, USA Author

Hello Patricia. I hear you! I am a little more alert now when opening mail. I always feel duped when I am tricked into opening envelopes that don't deliver on the promise. Blessings to you on this and every day.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 15 months ago from sunny Florida

You are so right, Marlene...gimmicks can lure us to open THAT envelope. I try to see if it is from a legitimate correspondent and if so I will open; otherwise they go in the recycling bin.

Thanks for sharing...hoping all is good with you Angels are once again headed your way ps


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 16 months ago from Northern California, USA Author

DzyMsLizzy, there is one excellent point that you make - legitimate business-to-consumer matters are not dealt with on a "mass" basis. So, it makes perfect sense about your advice to look at where the stamp would go. I like that suggestion. Also, I agree that so long as the post office is making money sending these mailers, they will just keep on doing it. Thank you so much for your feedback. It is very helpful.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 16 months ago from Northern California, USA Author

I feel the same way you do Dolores Monet. Once a salesperson tries to trick me, I no longer trust what they have to offer.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 16 months ago from Northern California, USA Author

Thank you RTalloni. Yes. Far too wasteful. It's one thing if the marketers believe people will read what they send. But, another when they know people are becoming wiser to their tricks and may not read the letter at all.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 16 months ago from East Coast, United States

I can't understand why anyone trying to sell something would start off with what is basically a lie. Once a consumer finds they've been lied to, they will most likely move on. That goes for people selling cars, appliances, just about anything. Tell me the truth, don't insult me, and I'll listen.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 16 months ago from Oakley, CA

It is maddening, dishonest, unethical, and wasteful. That said, this kind of deception, I've learned, is actually quite easy to spot from the outside of the envelope.

Just look in the upper right, where the stamp would go. There is none. It's a box reading "presrt standard." That is a bulk-mail rate identifier, and a legitimate bill or collection notice would not use bulk mail rates.

As you point out, it s from a magazine company, but if you do not subscribe to that magazine, it is safely tossed into the shredder, unopened.

Some junk mail does use stamps, but again, they are different from ordinary stamps, and show a postage amount that is much lower than the rest of us pay. Dead giveaway.

A genuinely urgent piece of mail from a legitimate source with which you actually have dealings would most likely arrive by certified mail, and require your signature upon delivery.

Bottom line, the more "urgent" they try to make it look on the outside, the more likely it is junk on the inside.

Sadly, however, as much as junk mail is hated by everyone, it seems to be what actually pays most of the bills at the post office, so it is unlikely to go away.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 16 months ago from the short journey

Yes--wasteful on so many levels! Good stuff to know and understand here, especially for business owners.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 17 months ago from Northern California, USA Author

Hi Suzanne! I agree. It is a real waste of natural resources. Thank you for commenting.


Suzanne Day profile image

Suzanne Day 17 months ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

I open these envelopes because it literally takes 5 seconds and I turf it in the bin if there is nothing to my liking. I must admit, sometimes the cheap pizza vouchers are worth it, but the rest just gets thrown away. What a waste of trees and advertising! Anyone who was worth their salt and knew my details would know I am extremely cautious with my money. Voted useful!


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 20 months ago from Northern California, USA Author

Hi catmalone. It looks like we have both fallen prey to this sort of thing in the past, but at least now we are wiser and less prone to be taken in by misleading envelopes.


catmalone profile image

catmalone 20 months ago

I agree with you on this one. I have in the past received urgent letters in the mail certified. It does draws attention and can be disappointing when you realize it wasn't so important. Great hub with useful information.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 20 months ago from Northern California, USA Author

Hello poetryman6969. I tend to look at my own reaction to determine whether or not a marketing program will be effective. If I think I wouldn't like someone approaching me a certain way, then I won't approach others that way.


poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 20 months ago

The bright side about bad email and bad snail mail marketing is that it makes me certain that I don't want to annoy people with that stuff.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 22 months ago from Northern California, USA Author

Oh my, colorfulone. You are a fun person. I like your idea of packing their self-addressed envelope with junk. I'll bet that teaches them.


colorfulone profile image

colorfulone 22 months ago from Minnesota

I do not like this sort of mail. Some times if they send a postage paid envelope, I send it back packed full of junk. They have to pay for the extra postage then. - Don't tell anyone I said that. ;)


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 22 months ago from Northern California, USA Author

You're smart, vkwok. For some reason, I actually don't get a lot of junk mail. I think that's why this piece caught me off guard.


vkwok profile image

vkwok 22 months ago from Hawaii

Usually when I get junk mail, I just rip it up after only a glance.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 22 months ago from Northern California, USA Author

Me too, BlossomSB. I do throw out a lot of mail unopened. But, this one piece caught my eye and I opened it out of curiosity and then I was annoyed. I would rather companies had better practices regarding advertising.


BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 22 months ago from Victoria, Australia

We get so much junk mail and communications that we don't want these days it can be really annoying. Interesting article.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 23 months ago from Northern California, USA Author

Hello Ericdierker. In the future, I'm going to do the same as you. And, like you said, I might miss a few good ones, but it won't be the end of the world.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 23 months ago from Northern California, USA Author

Hi ChitrangadaSharan. I agree. Marketing is critical to a company's success. They just need to be smart about it.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 23 months ago from Northern California, USA Author

I am glad you found this helpful, DDE. Thank you for your response and for your support.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 23 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

As a whole this type of marketing makes me disregard it without opening the envelope. I imagine I miss some stuff but not enough for me to open the envelopes up. This is a great hub about the issue.


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 23 months ago from New Delhi, India

Very informative and useful hub!

By and large today's World depends on advertising and marketing. This makes this article all the more helpful.

Thanks for sharing and voted up!


DDE profile image

DDE 23 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Informative and so helpful. Voted up and useful.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 23 months ago from Northern California, USA Author

Hello billybuc. Thank you for your feedback. As you can see, I'm not a fan of the gimmicky envelope.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 23 months ago from Northern California, USA Author

Thank you for your feedback, heidithorne. I truly appreciate your support.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

There seems to be more of this happening and you are right on point, my friend. Eventually, poor advertising and marketing will bite a business in the behind...or at least I hope it does. :) Well done, Marlene!


heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 23 months ago from Chicago Area

I couldn't agree with you more! Gimmicky marketing tactics might get some short term attention, but hurt long term loyalty. Voted up, useful and sharing!

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