3 Easy Takeaways From the Worst Direct Mail Ever

You can learn quite a bit by studying the best examples of direct mail. But can you learn something from studying the worst direct mail?

I always advise customers who use Who’s Mailing What! to check out controls, especially the Grand Controls (those in the mail for three years or more). They represent the best techniques, formats, creative and copywriting.

But every once in a while, I think about the worst mail I’ve ever seen.

You can learn quite a bit by studying the best examples of direct mail. But can you learn something from studying the worst direct mail?

This is a question that’s been running through my head lately.

I always advise customers who use Who’s Mailing What! to check out controls, especially the Grand Controls (those in the mail for three years or more). They represent the best techniques, formats, creative and copywriting.

But every once in a while, I think about the worst mail I’ve ever seen. And, I don’t mean mail that just never gets opened.

I’m not talking about bad Photoshop work, or self-mailers that tear because of too much glue, or misdirected mail you get from poor list work. I’m not even talking about charity scams, which never seem to go away.

I am talking about mail that gets something really, really wrong. Here are a few examples, and what can be learned from them.

1. Be More Subtle
Behold, my personal choice as the second worst mailing ever.

NHBC_01This “biz opp” brochure for something called the “Fast Cash CD-ROM System” really made my eyes hurt after about 30 seconds of reading it.

What a mess, right?

Lots and lots of underlining, stacks of money, all caps, full dollar amounts, the magic word “FREE” … it’s 16 pages of everything and the kitchen sink when it comes to direct mail graphic elements.

I’ve never run across anything as extreme as this mailer, but then, what could possibly top it? Designers, take it easy. If everything is important, then nothing is.

2. Hire A Good Copywriter
Or at least someone who can proofread well.

AmApp1This is a letter that was mailed by the defunct retail chain American Appliance, and is a perfect example of bad grammar, among many other sins.

I once wrote that this was the worst letter I ever read, and I stand by that assessment.