Direct Mail Designers Stealing Smart … From Digital

A few weeks ago, I was standing at my desk, opening the boxes of direct mail that get delivered to our Who’s Mailing What! offices. We all have a ritual like this with our mail at home, right? Multiple studies say it’s a just a few seconds at best for each piece. Thanks to the work of designers and copywriters, we keep what gets our attention, and dispose of the rest, one way or another.

A few weeks ago, I was standing at my desk, opening the boxes of direct mail that get delivered to our Who’s Mailing What! offices. We all have a ritual like this with our mail at home, right? Multiple studies say it’s a just a few seconds at best for each piece. Thanks to the work of designers and copywriters, we keep what gets our attention, and dispose of the rest, one way or another.

What stopped me and prompted this post was something I quickly saw on the front side of this direct mail membership appeal from The Ocean Conservancy. No, it wasn’t the image of the shark, although that is pretty cool, like a lot of what I’ve seen in the group’s direct mail over the years.

OceanC_01It was the clickbait-like teaser on the front: “10 THINGS you never knew about the ocean that will amaze you! NUMBER 3 will take your breath away …”. On the back, the clincher: “WARNING: NUMBER 1 might make you cry.”

I had to open it to see what this was all about. The leaflet inside with the 10 ocean facts didn’t disappoint me. It skillfully and quickly connected all of them to the organization’s mission of protecting ocean life. By the way, fact No. 1 — that only one in a 1,000 sea turtles now survives into adulthood because of human activity — did make me tear up.

Using a tactic like this got me thinking about other ways marketers have been adapting elements familiar to digital audiences to stand out with their direct mail. To paraphrase Dorothy Kerr, whose advice to study successful direct marketing inspired the launch of Who’s Mailing What!, they are “stealing smart”.

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