DM in the post-911 world: Don’t be blind to the alternatives

If direct mail hasn't been accused of enough things over the years - it's junky, wasteful, pushy - it is now being impacted by the bio-terrorism scare. Be honest: Can you rifle through your mail anymore with the same nonchalance you once did? The anthrax effect is being felt most prominently with 'blind' or 'official' mailings.

If direct mail hasn’t been accused of enough things over the years – it’s junky, wasteful, pushy – it is now being impacted by the bio-terrorism scare. Be honest: Can you rifle through your mail anymore with the same nonchalance you once did? The anthrax effect is being felt most prominently with ‘blind’ or ‘official’ mailings. You know the ones – number-10 envelope, little on the back with the possible exception of a return address, and no clear company branding.

The blind approach, while cheap and effective, was often the lazy direct marketer’s fallback. You just knew that you’d get people to open it. While it’s true that the first goal of the envelope is to lure recipients inside, it also represents a wonderful opportunity to build excitement and anticipation. The blind mailing, for all its benefits, never did that – you were never certain whether it was an announcement that you’d won a million bucks, or that you had defaulted on your credit card payments.

So, what can we do to boost this flagging direct marketing workhorse?

* Use clear company branding. That’s easy for the CIBCs or Microsofts of the world, but even companies without strong brand presence would be wise to fly their corporate colours.

* Branding doesn’t necessarily have to be glaring. It can be as subtle as a filigree or watermark, or an embossed emblem. That way, the envelope still looks official, and has real credibility.

* B2B vs. consumer. Mailings to large corporations should be treated a little more sensitively than those to consumers, since the perceived threat is being felt more acutely with the FP500.

* Consider a more ‘promotional’ approach. Formats like self mailers or snap packs, while not as official-looking, do have a time-sensitive quality that you can mine.

* Teasers. Telling your audience exactly what to expect inside is probably comforting right now.

* Remember how much you wanted to use real stamps for mailings, but there never seemed to be enough money in the budget? The mass-market feel of postal indicia is probably an advantage now.

* E-mails. We don’t use this medium enough because we never really had to. The negativity around sending paper through the mail should encourage us to take e-mail marketing more seriously in the future.

Will the blind direct mail package ever come back? Sure. It just may take a little time. While we’re waiting, let’s use the opportunity to do what this industry is all about. Innovate…and test, test, test like crazy.

Dean Maruna is senior VP, creative director at Toronto-based mosaic direct + interactive. marunad@mosaicca.com