Direct Mail

The Problem with Direct Mail

Many moons ago I worked on direct mail pieces. It’s an arcane practice requiring many of the things you hear about at Halloween – eye of newt and the like, and it is far more difficult than it would seem. Sadly, during the primaries here in Massachusetts I had some examples of the challenge. Guy is a fellow UMass grad and I received two portfolio pieces from him (8 1/2 x 17 so it folds into a 4 page brochure). Here’s the first one: Bonus points to you if you can catch the problem here. Look for a second to see if you get it. I ran this by a number of marketing people and few caught the error.

Reign has a homophone – rein (homophones sound alike but have different meaning whether they are spelled the same or not, in this case not). To make things even more confusing I thought this was a homonym, but while fact checking found than homonyms are also spelled the same (e.g. bear – the animal, vs. bear – to carry). After even further review I found that some use homophone and homonym interchangeably, perhaps because I am one of the 4 people left on earth that care.

But alas, if you do know the difference, it’s a huge one: Rein, the word that should have been used, comes from leading a horse and means to control – in this case stop the waste – a great message. Reign refers to the rule of a leader, most commonly referring to a monarch’s rule – so instead of eliminating wasteful spending this says he will be KingĀ  Wasteful the Great. Again, I ran this by a number of marketing professionals and they didn’t catch it – the point is: copy writing is challenging stuff and good editors are rare diamonds.

Here’s the second one:

This is the one that broke my heart completely. A cynic would say “Yes, that’s what I expect the auditor to do, that’s their job.”, but I love this ad. They look bad ass. Joe Schlump sleeping at his desk in some no show job at the State House would get run out of town by these guys. The other 3 pages were strong too, comparing him to his opponent, and doing a great job of it.

The problem here is that trying hit targets in the postal system is Jedi Master Level only. There are SCFs (Sectional Center Facilities) and a bunch of other crap I don’t even remember anymore that the mail moves through that affect delivery. Plus, every postmaster has to put all the rules and regulations in practice just like a Chief of Police – so every town is different. The postal system got the best of this one – when it arrived in my mailbox I had voted on election day, the day before.

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