A Good Example of Bad Envelope Marketing Gimmicks That Make Customers Angry
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
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:
- Advertising Age
Envelope gimmicks: Juicing up the impact of direct mail. By Christopher Hosford
Advertising Age is a news and information source for marketing and media companies. Advertising Age reports that companies are using gimmicks to get the envelope opened.
"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.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2015 Marlene Bertrand