My Accidental Direct Mail Lesson

by Rebecca Cochran

A couple of weeks ago, I had a minor car accident. Someone ran a stop sign and plowed into my left front bumper. Luckily, neither I nor the other driver was injured.

As this was my first (and hopefully, last) auto accident, I was unprepared for the deluge of direct mail I’d receive at my home. As soon as the police report was made public, I was inundated.Mail

As a marketing professional, I was immediately intrigued and a bit surprised. I’ve often heard (and even used) the phrase, “Your direct mail piece needs to stand out in a crowded mailbox.” And, yes, several of the envelopes I received stood out. One envelope was bright yellow. Another was red. One was thick, oversized and expensive. Several of the envelopes had the words “free gift” printed on the outside. There was one postcard (for a quick read), offering me a free biscuit if I acted today. The senders were mostly attorneys, chiropractors and auto body shops.

But, none of these envelopes or messages stood out in my mailbox.

Why? Because they all arrived on the same day. All thirteen were crammed into my small mailbox on the same day. My first reaction, since I had to work very hard to extract them from my tiny, overstuffed box, was to toss them all out immediately. They were creased, folded, torn and tattered. Instead, I decided to try to learn something from the experience of being on the receiving end of 13 simultaneous direct marketing campaigns.

Sure, a colorful envelope, a clever message, a free gift, even a biscuit might sway some to act. But, did any of the business owners consider timing? In this case, being there first was akin to not being there at all. I have to admit that I did not open a single envelope.

I wonder … If I had received a single direct mail envelope the following day, would I have opened it? Probably.

How would you have responded in a similar scenario? I’d love to hear your impressions.

This post was originally published in January, 2013.

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