From the Ashes
The Execution: On the outer envelope, the teaser was something like “Inside: Take this breathing test.” Inside was a card insert with a coffee straw glued to it. It was a lumpy package that would stand out in the mail. The letter told the dramatic story of a serious asthma attack and asked the reader to “try breathing through this straw to see how difficult it is … imagine the child gasping for air, the family in panic, our medical team coming to the rescue, etc.”
The client loved it. Agency staff loved it. I loved it. Maybe a bit too much.
The Results: We were so sure this idea was a winner, I’m not even certain if we mailed it against an established control to mitigate our risk. How could people not respond to it? Could there be a more dramatic, visceral way to simulate an asthma attack?
Apparently, yes. The package bombed. We had a heck of a time sourcing the straws and finding a vendor that could affix them, and it became expensive.
Why It Bombed: The teaser didn’t really demand attention or tie in with a key benefit. You really had to read the whole story to see how the straw related to what the client did. It didn’t focus enough on the core offer — the uniqueness of its world-class research and medical treatment. It was all sizzle and no steak.
Important Fundraising Lesson Learned: When everybody loves the package, it’s probably going to fail. Never go “outside the box” without first testing a small cell, and make sure an established winner carries the fundraising load. Take calculated risks. Think through all the production headaches your concept could cause.
But of course, don’t stop pushing the limits. You have to learn from your mistakes. And if you never bomb, you’re probably not pushing hard enough. FS