DM food for thought

I can't say for certain whether it's the gospel or merely an urban legend, but the story goes that when The Kingsmen of Louis, Louis fame launched a new song featuring The Jolly Green Giant, the Green Giant company counter-launched with...

I can’t say for certain whether it’s the gospel or merely an urban legend, but the story goes that when The Kingsmen of Louis, Louis fame launched a new song featuring The Jolly Green Giant, the Green Giant company counter-launched with an injunction against it being played.

If that’s true, and if it’s also true that Kraft Foods didn’t follow suit, so to speak, when The Barenaked Ladies released If I Had A Million Dollars that made mention of Kraft Dinner, you’d have to say the folks at Kraft are a little more liberal in their thinking. But I’m beginning to wonder if they’re too liberal for their own good when it comes to reaching out to diverse groups of Canadians.

Before explaining why I’ve been pondering this of late, let me point out that I’ve been a Kraft consumer for as long as I can remember. OK, maybe I do prefer Hellman’s mayonnaise to Kraft’s ersatz spread, Miracle Whip, but Kraft has a whole stable of other products that have always been staples around my household.

I’ve also always liked their heritage. You know, the venerable J.L. Kraft and his insistence on old-fashioned quality in everything the company does. It’s apparent from the millions of consumers they’ve attracted that a lot of other people like their brands and branding too.

But after seeing one of Kraft’s latest direct mail efforts, I’m betting that there are a number of consumers who are now cheesed off. I say that based on an addressed piece Kraft Kitchens sent out recently to people in Vancouver, and to who-knows-how-many other areas of the country.

Their mailer certainly is impressive-looking: a seven-fold, six-perforation, four-colour folder measuring three feet by nine inches when extended. Inside are a series of glorious 3-1/2′ X6-1/2′ photos of dishes that can be whipped up using such Kraft products as Catalina Dressing, 4-Cheese Italiano Shredded Cheese and Kraft BarBQ Sauce. The products are also shown in full colour.

One glance and you know this puppy cost a bundle to produce. And then when you realize it’s personalized on both sides, you know it cost even more. Plus, of course, there’s postage.

But my criticism of it has nothing to do with the quality of the piece or how much it cost to produce and deliver. The problem I have is that this self-mailer makes absolutely no sense. Or at least it doesn’t to me or the English-speaking people who sent it to me as a classic example of a stupid direct marketing trick. Because it’s in Chinese! About 97% of it is, anyway.

Why in J.L.’s name, would Kraft send an expensive Chinese-language direct mail piece to men and women with names like Clark, Toth and Spratt? Why would they mail even a cheap foreign-language direct mail piece to these obviously-Anglo consumers?

For starters, communicating to someone in a language they don’t understand is just plain wasteful. Second, it risks being detrimental to consumer relations because it can be off-putting for anyone to be given something they can’t read.

I’ve always advocated going beyond the English-or-French-is-my-first-language marketplace in order to boost sales and to exhibit good corporate citizenship in a multi-ethnic country. But if you’re going to put out a mailer in Canada written in something other than English or French, include the just-mentioned languages, too, because you don’t know whether the person with the Japanese-sounding name knows sushi from salami. He or she could be a fourth generation Canadian who’s never been exposed to any language beyond our country’s two official ones.

As an individual who is compelled to order from the English side of a Chinese restaurant’s menu, I can’t tell you much about the content of the Kraft Kitchens mailer in question except, as previously mentioned, it seems to be showing recipes. But I do know there’s a contest involved… because the rules and regs are printed in English! Kraft’s privacy policy is, too.

So now I really don’t get it. They send obvious-Anglos a mailer written in Chinese, so you might blame part of this DM fiasco on an atrocious list error. But if the piece is meant for people who read Chinese, why are the contest rules and the company’s privacy statement presented in English?

If anyone can make some sense of this nonsensical direct mail campaign, do let me know. Just be sure to do it in a language a guy with a name like Bob Knight can understand.

A Better-Krafted Self-Mailer

Lest you’ve come to the conclusion that all the DM folks at Kraft are daft, consider what their Post Cereal Division came up with recently.

One side of their addressed self-mailer has nothing but address information, forcing the recipient to turn the piece over to see what it’s all about.

What you see on the other side is a photo of two kids in hockey gear and a message stating, ‘Thanks to you, he’ll be dragged out of a warm bed on a regular basis, forced to suit up in sub-zero temperatures, possibly lose some perfectly good teeth, endure countless penalties, get benched, and spend time in a box. And pretty much have the time of his life.’

If you’re one of those whose curiosity is piqued and wants to know who’s writing you about kids and hockey, you peel off the sealer and open the mailer to learn that ‘Every box of Shreddies cereal you buy before February 28, 2001 will help support Minor Hockey for kids in your community.’ Then they go on to explain that each Shreddies purchase results in a donation to your provincial Minor Hockey League Association.

That message alone might be worthy of a mailing, but the crafty people at the Post Cereal Division knew they might as well milk the mailer for all it’s worth.

So in one version they included a survey enquiring about the recipient’s cereal habits; mail it back and you could win a $1,000 shopping spree. In another version, they also featured a coupon worth $1 off the regular price of a box of Shreddies. The plan, obviously, is to see what effect the coupon has on sales and whether it has an impact on the number of surveys returned.

Getting research information. Generating sales. Gathering names. Testing which appeal works best. That’s using direct mail the way it’s supposed to be used. And, oh yeah…writing in a language people can read is good, too.

I don’t know what Kraft is cooking up for their next direct mail campaign, but I can provide a recommendation to them – if it’s coming from Kraft Kitchens, first get them to have a chat with their Cereal counterparts about a little thing called targeting. Something to chew on, anyway.

An award-winning copywriter and creative director, Bob Knight has been working at his craft for more than 20 years. Through his company, Knight & Associates, he offers an a la carte menu of direct marketing and integrated advertising services. He can be reached at