June 28, 2012

Do you like this?

I just checked the mail and can’t help but laugh at the 20th letter I’ve received from TruGreen asking to fertilize my non-existent lawn. I’m sure I fit all of the right demographics for their direct mailings – zip code, home value, age and (HA!) income. The only thing lacking to make their dreams come true? Some grass around my townhome.

I’ve noticed in fact that 90% of the mail I receive is junk mail. The percentage would be higher but I still get paper credit card and utility bills for tax purposes. And, because I work from home, my clients mail paper checks right to my front porch. However, just about everything else the mailman delivers I wish was still a tree somewhere.

It’s always entertaining to see what kinds of direct mail you get. The home refinancing mailers always look official, like I can’t tell the difference between a letter from my own mortgage company and another one. “Important news regarding your current home mortgage.” Right. The only “important” news I get about my mortgage is a statement telling me when the next payment is due.

Not all mail that appears to be junk necessarily is. I recently received a mailing from Carnival Cruise Lines. Having taken a cruise back in January I assumed this was just a special offer to board again. On the way to the trashcan however, something enticed me to open it. I’m glad I did because this correspondence wasn’t simply a special offer, but a check for $20. It turned out to be a refund from a casino marker they’d misread or miscalculated. I guess that proves that all mail should at least be opened.

Despite rare surprises, for my money direct mail in paper form should be reserved for promoting incontinence products and retirement homes – because only old people read the mail. By old, I mean my parent’s age (late 60’s). My dad still clips newspaper articles and sends them to me through the U.S. Mail. I can’t believe he still subscribes to the daily paper much less has blank envelopes and stamps at the ready to mail off “news” I might find interesting. I guess he gets it from his father who, when he was about to be placed on a stamp ration lamented, “don’t cut me off from the outside world, son.”      

Nowadays, the “world” is the Internet and most notably, Facebook. I really like how some businesses utilize social media for promotion. One of the best examples locally is Collective Clothing, a vintage resale shop. When you see a post on St. Patrick’s day announcing that everything green is on sale or on Valentine’s Day when a torn up picture of your ex will earn you a deep discount, you realize social media is likely the most creative, free outlet for generating support.

My favorite titan of electronic media for brand promotion is non-other than President Barack Obama. No one out there has ever used a mailing list so tactfully just to get you to read an email, much less act on it.

The emails are always from Michelle Obama, Joe Biden or someone you might believe has the time to personally sit down and write you. The subject line reads something like “Chuck, would you do me a favor?” Then the seemingly personal email, with all of my demographic stats clandestinely aligned with the subject matter at hand, goes on to charm me into taking action on everything from saving kitty cats to voting for an amendment that’ll surely save Obama’s seat in the oval office.

During these current times of campaign fundraising, the Obama crew has raised the bar a little. Just the other day I received a “personal” email from Sarah Jessica Parker stating “it’s my honor to invite you to an event I’m hosting in my home with the President and First Lady.” You know, I just might take her up on it – and then mail her a thank you note.

Chuck Crowder is a local writer and general man about town. His opinions are just that.


June 28, 2012

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