Writing Off the Risk
As someone who believes in big ideas and testing that leads to landmark breakthroughs, I’m always on the lookout for packages that take risks. I root for the organizations that mail them, wishing them success.
The 7.75-inch Monarch special appeal I received from the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center Foundation (hereafter the 9/11 Memorial) has fantastic “package gestalt” — meaning, an organized whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
The closed-face ivory outer envelope is printed with the organization’s logo in the cornercard with the signer’s name and title below it. The nonprofit’s full name and address are printed on the backflap. The addressing is lasered in a font that simulates believable handwriting, and the barcode is not adjacent to it; instead, it is moved to the lower edge of the envelope. Overall, the carrier conveys the look and feel of a personal letter. The only thing I would add to improve it would be a mailer’s cancellation mark over the nonprofit postage stamp.
It’s not every day you see a two-sheet, four-page letter entirely in a font that simulates believable handwriting — the same font used for the addressing on the outer envelope — but that’s just what I found inside. And that’s a bold move, right there, to have so much copy in a font that, yes, looks real, but is also a bit spidery and hurts ease of readability. Having seen font tests yield quite different results, no matter how much this one contributes to the appeal’s package gestalt, I’d want to test it before rolling out.
Copy that works it — and works
That said, the letter copy actually requires it look handwritten. It opens:
“Dear Mrs. Seville,
Have you been here yet?
I’m writing you today from the National September 11 Memorial that you built as a tribute to the victims and heroes of that awful day.
And as I sit on this stone bench just beyond the Memorial pools — the 'footprints’ of the towers that collapsed in a horrific scene of steel and fire — I can’t help but think about the men and women we lost … of all the devastated families left in the wake of such carnage.
But the Memorial is inspiring as well as solemn, and so my thoughts drift to the amazing first responders who ran up the melting stairwells, and the outpouring of unity, generosity, and love from Americans of all races and backgrounds during the months of recovery.
And I think of you, Mrs. Seville.
Because truly, I have never been more grateful to you than ...”
And that’s the entirety of page one — 146 words, not counting the addressing and salutation. As a copywriter, I can tell you that’s some mad skill right there, and I’m doing a one-woman wave to the writer who crafted this letter (and also every person who reviewed this copy and didn’t muck it up). It is so much more difficult to “write short” because every single word matters exponentially more than usual. Not to mention that the copy paints moving and compelling word pictures of the letter signer sitting amid the serenity of the memorial, and brings up vivid reminders of what happened that day.