Empower Your 2020 Political Direct Mail With These Tips

It’s that time again for political direct mail planning. Are you the one planning to win your election? Did you know that a USPS commissioned survey in 2018 found that 68% of voters believe direct mail to be the most credible source of political outreach?

It’s that time again for political direct mail planning. Are you the one planning to win your election? Did you know that a USPS commissioned survey in 2018 found that 68% of voters believe direct mail to be the most credible source of political outreach? (Opens as a PDF) You need to build a strategy that raises awareness, builds a following, and motivates voters. What is the best way to do that? Using a combination of direct mail, social media, Google ads, and YouTube ads to engage voters both offline and online will enhance your results.

Because 73% of Americans prefer the first contact to be by mail, you need to be in the mailbox before early voting ballots go out. Are you prepared with a realistic timeline? You should also know that 55% of voters use mail to decide how to vote. If you are not in the mailbox you are missing out on a huge opportunity. Yes, direct mail is expensive, but it more than pays for itself with big ROI.

So what should you include in your mail piece?

  • Stance on important issues
  • Contrast with an opponent
  • A list of endorsements
  • Important voting information, such as deadlines
  • A picture
  • Color
  • Personalization

You may think that the best way to win is to mail to every registered voter. But really, your best bet is to mail to only active voters. These are the people who will mail in ballots or show up at polling stations. You need to convince them to vote for you: Do not waste your money on the others. What size mailer should you send to them? Use a large piece, such as an 9 x 12, because oversized pieces have been shown to increase response rates by 10.4%. They really stand out in the mailbox.

As you are designing and writing copy, keep in mind that your text should be concise and easily scanned. The best designs use bolding, italics, color, and contrast to draw the eye to important content. The easier you make it for people to quickly understand what you are saying, the more effective your mail piece will be. Direct mail is better understood, remembered, and acted upon when you use best practices. After you design a piece, send a PDF to your mail service provider to review for potential postal regulation issues before you print. You do not want to waste money on postal penalties.

Remember, unlike a business that sells products or services, which has the ability to sell them over a long period of time, political mail needs to convince people quickly to either support or not to support a candidate or a proposition. You can also add texture to your mailers to give people a reason to hold your mail piece longer. A very popular one is the soft touch coating, which feels like velvet. People can’t help but pet the paper. Lastly, make sure that you use personalization on your mail pieces. It makes people feel more important and makes your message more personal to them. Are you ready to get started?

Does Your Copy Have a ‘Human’ Voice? Or a ‘Copywriter’s’ Voice?

The other day I got an email from someone I hadn’t heard from in a while. The subject line was a casual “Hey Gary.” Wow, I thought! I haven’t heard from this person in a long time, so I eagerly opened the email. But in a split-second, I realized this wasn’t a personal email. It was an autoresponder. And it didn’t sound like the person I know who sent it. It felt like it had been written by a copywriter.

The other day I got an email from someone I hadn’t heard from in a while. The subject line was a casual “Hey Gary.” Wow, I thought! I haven’t heard from this person in a long time, so I eagerly opened the email. But in a split-second, I realized this wasn’t a personal email. It was an autoresponder. And the voice didn’t sound like the person I know who sent it. It felt like it had been written by a copywriter.
business_personalThat experience jarred me into wondering about my own copy: Does it sound human? Do I capture the right “voice” of either the sender or the organization?

Sometimes copy gets lost by overthinking it, making sure every “t” is crossed and “i” dotted. Sometimes the tone gets lost through input from other marketing team members, rounds of approvals, and review for compliance, where the tone degrades into being less human and more unnatural — to the point of being distracting or off-putting.

So today I share a few thoughts about copy’s “voice.”

I’ve come up with a scale that might help guide you to the “voice” or tone of copy for you. It’s a scale of 1 to 3. One is the most casual. Three is the most formal. You might find there are more than three for your situation. These are examples of how you might greet someone, ranging from a close friend, to casual acquaintance, to someone you’d meet for the first time:

  1. ‘Sup my brother/sister?
  2. Hey there, <name>! How are you?!
  3. Hello, <name>, nice to meet you.

In the example email from a friend I cited earlier, the subject line was a casual “Hey Gary.” But the tone shifted, once the email was opened to a more canned, more formal, “Hello, nice to meet you” approach.

It was distracting. And disappointing. These unintended — but very real — impressions overwhelmed whatever impact was hoped for about the message content. So my advice is this:

  • Know your audience. When you know your audience, you’ll know if your voice can be casual or formal. Settling on the appropriate voice can be based on past transactions, the type of product or service you offer, or what you know about your customer’s age, demos or behavioral data.
  • Distinguish the level of relationship and product awareness. The voice of a subject line of an email, and headline of any copy (website, landing page, letter, etc.), should be based on the awareness and relationship your prospective customer has with your product or its category.
  • Choose the right type of lead. The relationship and awareness (or lack thereof) dictates if you should use a direct lead (offer, promise or problem-solution) or an indirect lead (secret, declaration or story). I’ll share more about these six lead types in a future blog post.
  • Be consistent. Don’t shift from one voice type to another within the same promo. If the copy has been significantly edited, be sure to read it aloud so you can hear if the voice is consistent throughout.
  • Be consistent across channels. If you’re using email, make sure the voice is consistent from the subject line to the email body, and from the email to the landing page, and yes, consistent all the way through the order page.

Finally, let someone read your copy who is unfamiliar with what has been written, to make sure the voice is appropriate and, probably most importantly, that it sounds like it was written by a human.

Just curious: do you feel my “voice” in these blog posts is appropriate? I invite your feedback.

Gary Hennerberg’s latest book is “Crack the Customer Mind Code: Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!,” available from the DirectMarketingIQ Bookstore. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways and other copywriting and consulting tips, go to Hennerberg.com.

Taking Personal Relevance Beyond the Message

Personal relevance is still mission-critical, but in a much different way. We don’t need to have customers’ names in lights or all over a direct marketing piece as much as we just need to deliver information about products and experiences that are timely and meaningful to them via channels and at times that are relevant, as well.

relevant contentYears ago, we got excited when digital printing technology enabled us to personalize direct marketing letters, self-mailers and pretty much anything else that could be printed on a Xerox iGen, which merged individual customer data into the copy and even the graphics of pretty much anything that could be printed. We’d open a #10 envelope and see our name in the header, at least one sentence in every paragraph, and sometimes even in the graphics, like on an image of the product the sender was trying to sell us. It made us feel recognized and valued.

A few years later, we enjoyed getting personalized videos that were “all about me,” too. And then, well, it just became standard to see our names on everything, even M&Ms and the covers of catalogues for our favorite brands. It just wasn’t a big deal any more; and in many cases, neither were the results.

However, personal relevance is still mission-critical, but in a much different way. We don’t need to have customers’ names in lights or all over a direct marketing piece as much as we just need to deliver information about products and experiences that are timely and meaningful to them via channels and at times that are relevant, as well.

This means that we need to have relevant content that inspires consumers to engage with our brands, purchase our products or just have a conversation with us. This content can be ads, promotional offers, white papers, invitations to join a cause and such. And this content must be adapted for every consumer segment or persona we target, and it must be delivered frequently enough to keep our brands top-of-mind, and on the channels that consumers use the most, which are not just a few any more.

Add it up, and we marketers need to develop and distribute a lot of content to a lot of customers a lot of times. And that’s the challenge to personalized, relevant marketing today.

Think about it. You want to promote a special offer for a limited time across all your market locations and you need to use all channels – print, digital, social, point-of-sale displays – and you want to do it in French, English and Spanish. And all elements have to be in place at the same time, as it is a limited-time promotion and you want to measure the impact of various channels and which locations and segments did the most business with you as a result. If you take that promotional ad or digital banner you created and manually adapt it for each segment or persona that won’t respond unless it reflects some aspect of how they see themselves, and you then manually adapt each of those for each channel, format and language needed, that’s a lot of time. And if you use an agency, that’s a lot of billable time. But you have to do it.

In many cases, customizing content such as that described above can increase your campaign costs substantially, according to Perry Kamel, a leader in the content management technology field and CEO of Elateral, a cloud-based content hub designed to manage and deploy content in all formats, digital and print, across all channels.

A key aspect of marketing relevance then is to have a system in place that enables you to adapt your content and get it ready for multichannel distribution in record time, while customers are thinking about your category, product and brand, and before you competitors get their “personalized” content out. Doing both requires content management processes and systems that enable you to create content frequently, quickly adapt to all channels and formats, and get it ready to send out via your CRM platforms quickly.

When you can adapt your content for multiple channels quickly, the impact of your programs go up, and often by a lot. Following are some real-world examples of cost and time savings realized by some of Elateral’s clients:

  • 89 percent unit cost reduction for marketing materials
  • 95 percent faster time to market
  • $5 million savings after first campaign flight

These numbers reflect the reality of relevant marketing today. Content must be relevant, the channels used must be relevant, and the frequency of content distribution must be, too. It’s not just about the message and its psychological or emotional appeal and impact.

Some tips to consider:

  • Time to market is critical for any campaign; just as much as the direct relevance of your offer and message to the persona and segments you are targeting. The more time it takes to get your content adapted for every channel is likely enough time for your competition to intervene and get the sale before you do.
  • Consumers expect messages and marketing images to reflect who they are and align with their lifestyles and aspirations. Content for ads, emails, social posts and point-of-sale displays that don’t line up with who they are or want to be likely won’t influence behavior as effectively, and there simply is not time to waste.
  • Every time you have to manually change a headline, language, image or size of shape of a marketing piece, you spend time getting it done, and that can be costly in terms of paying outside suppliers to do it for you. You need to find a system and process for getting your content adapted as cost-efficiently as possible so you can lower costs and improve your advertising ROI.

Take away: Relevance is not just about the message or offer, or how it appeals to each persona you target. Relevance must address the timing with which your message is delivered, the frequency and the channels that are most meaningful to your consumers.

The Best Brand Gift Ever!

I know you are a YES person. A DIY person. A BRING IT person. A CAN DO person … excellent at all you do—conscientious, responsible, dependable, overachieving. No doubt, it’s how you got where you are. All wonderful qualities. So this Christmas, perhaps the last thing you need or want is something from “The 12 Days of Christmas.” What you just might need this month is 12 days and ways to say NO.

I know you are a YES person. A DIY person. A BRING IT person. A CAN DO person … excellent at all you do—conscientious, responsible, dependable, overachieving. No doubt, it’s how you got where you are. All wonderful qualities. So this Christmas, perhaps the last thing you need or want is, as the song says, some version of “12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, 10 lords-a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids-a-milking, seven swans-a-swimming, six geese-a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves or even a partridge in a pear tree.” You don’t need or want more stuff. You want a meaningful, long-lasting, brand-enhancing and life-affirming gift. Something useful and practical.

What you just might need this month is 12 days and ways to say NO.

The deal is that no one can give this gift to you. It’s a selfie. There’s no outsourcing this skill to a personal shopper, no concierge service that can do this for you. It’s a true DIYer.

As YES people, the word NO is an infrequent part of our vocabulary—in our brand lives and in our personal lives. But I have found that the happiest and most productive people have given themselves the gift of NO. They have learned to make NO a natural part of their DNA … both in and out of the office.

So, before you head out of the office to start holiday celebrations, why not raise a toast to that little two-letter word NO and see if these bits of inspiration may encourage you to treat yourself (and the brand you lead) to this very important present:

1. The gift of a new discipline … making no an art form. Missy Park, founder of Title Nine, echoes the power of no. “In my book, saying yes is over-rated. Fact is, it’s easy to say yes. No difficult choices, no disappointments. Ahh, but saying no. That is the real art form. There’s choosing to say no which can be wrenching. There is choosing when to say no, which is often. And then there’s saying it graciously, which is very hard indeed.”

2. The gift of throwing in the towel … the towel that really doesn’t matter. I greatly admire Bob Goff. He’s an author, an attorney and founder of Restore International, a nonprofit human rights organization. He wisely shares: “I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” With that in mind, Goff makes it a habit to quit something every Thursday. It liberates him for new things. What can you be simply done with?

3. The gift of margin … build in white space … everywhere! Dr. Richard Swensen, a physician-futurist, educator and author, advocates for purposefully creating mental, emotional, physical and spiritual breathing room in our full-to-brimming professional and personal lives. He calls it margin—like the white space around pages of books. He counsels that we need it more than ever. Appropriately saying NO gives us more white space.

4. The gift of focus … just say no … perhaps three times or more! Steve Jobs, Apple’s brilliant and passionate founder, shared this: “Focusing is about saying no. You’ve got say no, no, no. The result of that focus is going to be some really great products where the total is much greater than the sum of the parts.”

5. The gift of eliminating even more non-urgent and unimportant time fritters. Stephen Covey, author of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” cautions us to be careful of defaulting too often into what he calls Quadrant 4 of his time management matrix … the place we naturally drift after spending lots of time in urgent and crisis modes: trivia, busywork, mindless surfing. Just say goodbye to all the nonessentials.

6. The gift of stopping … count the ways. Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great,” encourages us to create STOP DOING LISTS. That’s right … enumerate all things you are no longer going to do. Start by simply saying no to his Venn diagram of three crucial things-activities that are you are not deeply passionate about, that you feel you are not genetically encoded for and things that don’t make much economic sense.

7. The gift of holding back … a permission slip for more B+s. Must everything be done to an A+ perfection level? Pick and choose those activities that really warrant this kind of energy. Challenge yourself to not be an honors student in all you do. Award-winning author Anne Lamott had to remind herself in midlife that “a B+ is just fine.”

8. The gift of less … hit that delete key more often. Do we really need (or have time to read) all those subscriptions? Must we? Find satisfaction in architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe “less is more” philosophy. Go ahead—delete, unsubscribe, edit, curate. Whatever you have to call this process, just do it.

9. The gift of simplicity … now. Years ago naturalist and poet, Henry David Thoreau warned us: “Our life is frittered away by detail … Simplify, simplify, simplify!” Alan Seigel updates that sentiment for brand leaders in his book: Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity. Perhaps it’s time to give yourself and your brand the gift of a serious simplification process.

10. The gift of benign neglect … just ignore it! Do we really have to have a multiplatform constantly clean inbox? Who cares? What’s the point? Mani S. Sivasubramanian, author of “How To Focus – Stop Procrastinating, Improve Your Concentration & Get Things Done – Easily!” writes: “Information overload (on all levels) is exactly WHY you need an “ignore list.” It has never been more important to be able to say “No.”

11. The gift of checking back in with yourself … so, what matters now? In her book “Fierce Conversations,” leadership development architect Susan Scott suggests people change and forget to tell one another. That is true. Sometimes we even forget to tell ourselves. What has changed for you or your brand? Your energy level? Your tolerance? Your interests? Your competition? Your customers? What needs revisiting so that your yeses are truly yeses and your nos are truly nos?

12. The gift of a do-over … recycle your mistakes. We’ve all made the mistake of saying yes when we should have said no. Jot down a few of those do-overs on a post it note. What were the learning lessons? Keep that note to yourself handy.

‘Tis the season for gift-giving. Be kind to yourself and to your brand and make the practice of gracious NO saying not only a year end gift, but a long lasting part of your DNA.

4 Predictions for B-to-B Marketing in 2013

It’s that time of the year when observers can’t resist making predictions about developments on the horizon. I hereby take up that tradition, offering up four random prognostications for where B-to-B digital marketing is headed in 2013. My topics include Facebook, content marketing, personal branding and data hygiene—certainly an eclectic mix. I encourage readers to add their own.

It’s that time of the year when observers can’t resist making predictions about developments on the horizon. I hereby take up that tradition, offering up four random prognostications for where B-to-B digital marketing is headed in 2013. My topics include Facebook, content marketing, personal branding and data hygiene—certainly an eclectic mix. I encourage readers to add their own.

Facebook Is Ready, At Last, for the B-to-B Prime Time
It took a while, but Facebook (FB) marketing is now ready for mainstream B-to-B, in support of branding, lead generation and customer relationship marketing goals for enterprises of all sizes. There are several reasons for this—FB’s universality being one of them. But the critical driver is the recent arrival of the Facebook Exchange (FBX) ad platform, which will allow banner ad bidding and retargeting to specific individuals, based on data matching.

So, while I used to argue that Facebook should be at the bottom of a B-to-B marketer’s to-do list, I am revising my view for 2013. Talking to my pals at Edmund Optics, where I serve on the board of directors, I am hearing confirmation of these developments. Edmund’s target audience is optical engineers and others interested in science and technology. Years ago, I would have advised them to ignore FB and focus on more targeted social networks.

But now, EO has turned its Facebook page into an effective environment for engaging these guys, with weekly “Geeky Friday” offers, and the enormously popular Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide at Halloween, where engineers were invited to design zombie-blasting tools using Edmund products. Facebook is now a top referring source for EO’s website, up 60 percent from last year. I stand corrected.

More and Better Content
B-to-B marketers were early to the content marketing game. In fact, I would argue that B-to-B has been a leading force in this area, in recognition of the importance of prospect education and thought leadership in the complex selling process. B-to-B marketers will continue to excel at creating valuable materials—digital, paper-based, video, you name it—to attract prospects and deepen relationships.

How do I know this? A new study from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, which says that 54 percent of B-to-B marketers plan to increase their content marketing budgets in 2013. Their biggest content challenge for next year? Ironically, it’s producing enough content.

Personal Branding as a Way of Life
Business people and consumers alike are realizing that their online personas have a growing impact on both their everyday lives and their professional careers. Rather than letting their personal brands evolve organically, individuals will make more proactive efforts to build and manage their images online, benefiting from the guidance of an emerging community of personal brand experts like William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson. This means establishing unique brand positioning and developing a set of active and consistent messaging across Internet media, especially social networks, to explain who they are and what are their capabilities. Personal branding is no longer just for celebrities or the self-employed; with the rise of social media, it is for everyone.

Renewed Interest in Data Hygiene
Whenever I give a seminar on B-to-B marketing, I ask attendees to take out their business cards and look at them carefully. Then, I say, “Raise your hand if anything on the card is new in the last 12 months.” Invariably, 30 percent of the hands go up.

The high rate of change in B-to-B—whether moving to a different a company, a new title, even a new mail stop—is obvious. But only recently has it begun to sink in that addressing people incorrectly, or campaigning with undeliverable mail or email addresses, not only wastes marketing dollars, but also means lost business opportunity. So enough about big data. The focus in 2013 will be clean data.

And if you want some tips on how to keep your B-to-B data clean, have a look at my white paper: “Our Data is a Mess! How to Clean Up Your Marketing Database.”

So, those are my predictions. I hope readers will add some of their own. What do you think we’ll be seeing in B-to-B digital marketing in 2013?

A version of this post appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Email to Repair Broken Customer Relationships—What J.C. Penney Got Wrong

Email is one of the more personal forms of electronic communication. Notes from friends and family are co-mingled with marketing messages. This makes it an excellent vehicle for repairing broken relationships. When done well, email apology letters drive sales in addition to mending relationships, but can they save a company from a death spiral? The management team at J.C. Penney is hoping that the recent note from CEO Ron Johnson will reverse (or at least slow down) the sales free fall for the last two quarters.

Email is one of the more personal forms of electronic communication. Notes from friends and family are co-mingled with marketing messages. This makes it an excellent vehicle for repairing broken relationships.

When done well, an email apology letter drives sales in addition to mending relationships. A few years ago, a client had a system failure that resulted in delayed shipments of holiday orders. An email was sent to every customer who had placed an order that season (even the ones who had already received their orders.) The message explained what caused the problem, apologized for any inconvenience, promised to expedite shipments of remaining orders, and offered a gift certificate for future orders.

The immediate response was so positive, the President quipped, “We should plan a problem once a quarter so we can apologize!” The revenue from the apology letter more than covered the expedited shipping. Furthermore, the relationship between customer and company became stronger. The people who received the letter consistently outperformed their counterparts who didn’t get one in both sales and lifespan.

Personal letters help salvage relationships but can they save a company from a death spiral? The management team at J.C. Penney is hoping that the recent note from CEO Ron Johnson will reverse (or at least slow down) the sales free fall for the last two quarters. In May, the first quarter results revealed a 20.1 percent drop in revenue because shoppers didn’t like the new pricing and marketing strategy. Second quarter was worse with another revenue drop of almost 23 percent. Traffic was down 12 percent.

When things are going south at this rate, quick action is required. Johnson admitted to pricing and marketing mistakes when speaking with investors, but his letter to customers is more like an introduction than an “Oops! We goofed.” The letter reads:

Dear valued customer,

You’ve probably heard about recent changes at jcpenney. I’m honored to
say that I’m one of them.

I’m Ron Johnson, and I came here because I have a lifelong passion for
retailing—and jcpenney has been one of America’s favorite stores for
over a hundred years. My goal is to make jcpenney your favorite place
to shop.

I’ve asked our team to innovate in many ways—to help you look and live
better—and to make shopping more enjoyable.

While you will see many changes, you can rest assured that we’ll never
lose sight of our founder’s values. When James Cash Penney built his
first retail stores over a century ago, he called them “The Golden
Rule,” because treating customers with respect was his highest
priority.

One of Mr. Penney’s guiding principles was offering low prices every
day—instead of running a series of “special sales.” We’re honoring Mr.
Penney by returning to his pricing policy, so you’ll find great prices
every time you visit.

We’ve also made it easier to return items, we’re bringing in more
great brands, adding excitement to our presentation, offering free
back-to-school haircuts for kids, and much more.

Basically, we’re putting you and your family first, trying to give you
new reasons to smile every time you visit a jcpenney store.

You’ll see many innovations in the coming months, and I’ll keep you
informed in a series of letters like this. I hope you’ll let me know
how we’re doing, and share any ideas that could help us do better.
Just click the link below to send me a note.

On behalf of the jcpenney team, thank you for shopping with us.

Ron

I’d like to hear from you.
View email with images.

*Please be advised that any information disclosed or submitted will
become jcp property and may be used in public communications.”

The timing of this letter is off. It should have been sent prior to the pricing changes. Now is the time for J.C. Penney to be open about the issues and invite people to share thoughts without the threat that they “may be used in public communications.”

Email messages designed to repair relationships are different from marketing emails. They have to be simple and personal. The J.C. Penney email is designed to look like a letter from the CEO, as you can see in the first picture in the media player at right.

Unfortunately, it looks like the second picture in the media player when it lands in the inbox. The letter is an image instead of text. It isn’t very inviting to a loyal customer much less an unhappy one.

Do’s and don’ts for creating personal relationship mending messages:

  • Do personalize the name. “Dear valued customer” says “I don’t know who you are.” The individual who shared this email with me has been a loyal catalog shopper and had a J. C. Penney credit card. They should be on a first name basis.
  • Don’t use a ho-hum subject. You have to catch people’s attention in a flash. “A letter from our CEO” doesn’t do it. Wouldn’t “Our CEO wants your advice” be better?
  • Do identify the problem and take responsibility for it. “Oops! We goofed!” followed with an explanation and sincere apology is the first step to mending the relationship. If the recipient doesn’t feel your sincerity, additional damage is done.
  • Don’t limit responses by qualifying. Mr. Johnson asks for feedback and then states that the information shared may be used in public communications. Some apology emails offer a discount based on a specific order size. Relationship mending emails have to do two things: Take responsibility and offer some form of restitution. A discount is a promotion. Basing it on a dollar amount is adding insult to injury.
  • Do use text-only emails. A picture paints a thousand words and most of them send marketing signals and awaken spaminators. The purpose of relationship building emails is to restore the relationship. This won’t happen if the email goes to spam or looks like a bunch of boxes with red X’s.
  • Don’t ever forget that relationships with customers are a privilege not a right. When you are truly grateful for the opportunity to serve your customers, it resonates in your messages. Make sure that your marketing team (including the copywriter) has the right perspective when creating messages.

Postal service in Finland tries an experiment that direct marketers will despise

Did you see this story about Finland’s postal service? They’re conducting an experiment with a small group of customers, in order to cut down on pollution and overall costs, in which all household mail is opened by postal employees in a “secured” location and then scanned and sent by email to the customer. I suppose, in the age of Facebook, that people don’t mind having other people eyeing their personal mail.

Did you see this story about Finland’s postal service? They’re conducting an experiment with a small group of customers, in order to cut down on pollution and overall costs, in which all household mail is opened by postal employees in a “secured” location and then scanned and sent by email to the customer.

I suppose, in the age of Facebook, that people don’t mind having other people eyeing their personal mail … and that it’s hard as hell to open an envelope by ourself. The UK Telegraph writer begins the story smartly, sounding the alarm bells: “Not even the most intimate love letters, payslips, overdue bills and other personal messages will be spared under the controversial scheme.”

Of course, few of us get love letters anymore, but that doesn’t mean we relish the idea of others checking out our credit card bills. One commentator on a forum called the experiment straight from the KGB play book. (KGB seems a little extreme; I’ll go with Orwellian, instead.) We like our privacy, and it’s why the U.S. Postal Service continues to get such high marks from Americans: Our mail arrives where it’s supposed to, and nobody opens it. Likewise, we receive mail that’s retained its seal. When that seal is broken, so is our trust.

For the volunteer Finns, they can actually get their mail pieces delivered to them, but after it’s been resealed … by a stranger. Creepy, methinks.

The direct marketing community, meanwhile, must frown on such an experiment. Reducing a well designed mail piece to a measly email? Now that’s a lousy deal.

For now, some private companies are offering such services to consumers, such as Earth Class Mail, which originally brought the idea to Swiss Post, and Zumbox, which also scans your mail and then puts it into your Zumbox email box.

But since marketers will be charged anywhere from 2 cents to 5 cents per mail piece on Zumbox, I don’t see that many companies wanting to foot that bill for essentially an upgraded email. Again, it simply robs direct mail of its true “landing” and “feeling” power. They’re acting like the recipient is the beneficiary, but we all know that it’s Zumbox … while customer and mailer alike have their relationship digitally reduced.

And like my colleague Hallie Mummert said to me, “Who’s going to sign up for yet one more inbox via which to receive non-targeted junk mail?” People still like mail, maybe even more so now because there are many ways to control the flow, but people are getting rather sick of email. So in some ways Zumbox, and certainly Finland, may even be behind the curve.