The envelope makes no sense — but it doesn’t have to

From Uncle Maynard’s Treasure Trove of Direct Mail Knowledge:

Clever

This is the only image on the front of an envelope (shown about twice actual size). It partly overlaps the window. The organization’s name and address are on the flap.

A lot of people looking at this will say it’s the most stupid thing they’ve ever seen. Why bother labeling something that’s not a government document a NON-GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT? Isn’t that sort of like calling your cat a NON-CANINE PET?

The illogic of it is why most organizations would never put this mark or anything like it in the mail. Someone on the committee would very articulately expound on the pointlessness of it.

But let me tell you: It is utterly brilliant.

Not only is it 100% true, it’s designed to incite curiosity, which increases the chances it’ll be opened. That is exactly what direct mail envelopes are supposed to do. It’s their entire job. Not to be beautiful, clever, brand-compliant, cutting-edge, wise, funny, or anything else — unless one of those qualities causes the recipient to open it. And those qualities seldom accomplish that.

Some of the best-performing direct mail I’ve done has had teasers like this. Things that no doubt made people say “What the heck?” Things like:


  • DO NOT BEND
  • MESSAGE ENCLOSED
  • TUESDAY
  • DEADLINE

I know what the committee thinks of those. They don’t make sense!

Making sense isn’t their purpose. Getting opened is.

Give it a try. You’ll be happy with the results.


Comments

2 responses to “The envelope makes no sense — but it doesn’t have to”

  1. Kim Stiens Avatar
    Kim Stiens

    Dislike. Even if it is 100% true, it’s intent is to be deceptive… to make the reader think it’s an official document from someone important. I think gimmicks like this insult donors, even if it works on some of them, and I wouldn’t do it. If a cause is worth supporting, there’s something you can put on the outside of that envelope to increase the response rate while being completely ethical and upright.

  2. Kim Stiens Avatar
    Kim Stiens

    Dislike. Even if it is 100% true, it’s intent is to be deceptive… to make the reader think it’s an official document from someone important. I think gimmicks like this insult donors, even if it works on some of them, and I wouldn’t do it. If a cause is worth supporting, there’s something you can put on the outside of that envelope to increase the response rate while being completely ethical and upright.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.