Anatomy of a Control: Sierra Club Packs It In
Direct mail is the only advertising medium that enables the sender to create a personal message. I did not say “personalized” — as in having the recipient’s name plastered all over the place, such as with return address labels or on a sweepstakes entry form. In this instance, “personal” means that the letter writer can make an intimate and emotional connection with the reader. As freelance copywriter Bill Jayme said, “In direct mail — as in theater — there is indeed a factor at work called the willing suspension of disbelief.”
A direct mail package comes into your hands, and you know in your gut that this thing has gone out to thousands — maybe millions — of others. But it somehow touches you.
Such is the case with the acquisition effort of the Sierra Club, which as 368,000 members and spends nearly $50 million on environmental causes and has an endowment of nearly $120 million.
The busy, little gray monarch-sized envelope, at first glance, appears to be personally addressed to me from Carl Pope. The font in the computer-generated name and address label matches Pope’s name in the cornercard. In the upper right is a faux-metered nonprofit indicia in red. But this is offset by the bright, four-color stamps in the center that give the feeling of something that was hand-applied.
Hooked on a feeling
Examine ten direct mail packages, and from nine of them you’ll get the feeling that it’s coming from a machine instead of a live human being. Sure, there’s a letter from a person, but the signature is printed. The reader’s name is either a label or computer personalized. It appears as if the only human that ever touched it was the postman. The envelope is full of “printed” things — not things touched by real people. Everything looks too neat, too perfect.