Is it junk mail if you say it ain’t so?

What should you do if you’re worried about people thinking your mailer is junk mail? How about just telling them it’s not junk mail?

The copywriter for one hearing aid company simply used a teaser that said “THIS IS NOT JUNK MAIL!!!”

not junk mail

Is this an effective way to get people to read your mailer? I think not.

First, what objection is this intended to address? Surveys show people actually like direct mail and respond to it. Assuming you’re mailing to a targeted list of likely customers and that you have a compelling message and strong offer, recipients should be open to learning more about your product.

Second, telling people your mailing is not junk mail doesn’t convince them it’s not junk mail. It simply introduces a negative idea that probably wasn’t there to begin with. If you walk up to someone you don’t know and say, “I’m not a liar.” What idea will that person remember about you? The idea of “liar.” People don’t think in negatives.

Third, assuming that your target audience is thinking “junk mail” when they open their mailbox, will a teaser on a piece of that junk mail convince them otherwise? Imagine a mailer from a politician you consider dishonest. It won’t help the politician’s case to put a teaser on the envelope that reads, “I’m not the sneaky, cheating bastard you think I am.”

Introducing a negative idea in this way is counterproductive.

Effective copy is not only about what you say. It’s also about what you don’t say. Every word should have a purpose and avoid unnecessary or distracting information.

What’s a better way to assure people will read your mailer? I’ve already said it: send your mailer to a targeted list of likely customers and present a compelling message and strong offer.

People search for relevance. If your message is relevent, people will read it.

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9 Responses to “Is it junk mail if you say it ain’t so?”

  1. Suzanne Obermire on August 19th, 2008 2:16 pm

    Interesting! I agree with you 100%. And, the audience here is probably a group of seniors–traditionally pretty responsive to direct mail offers.

    Unlike a lot of direct marketers, I have no problems calling true ‘junk mail’ junk. In this case, however, there was no reason to do so–especially on the envelope!

  2. Janice C Cartier on August 20th, 2008 12:24 pm

    It’s like a politician saying may we be honest here…what? You mean we weren’t before?

    or, is it this mail doesth protest too much?

    Either way, it looks MORE like junk mail than it would without it. IMHO.

    Dean is there a thing with marketing and the color orange? I know it is one of the most visible colors on the spectrum, but does it actually get more results? I am tempted by this envelope in part because of its color.

  3. Dean Rieck on August 20th, 2008 12:46 pm

    Janice: Good observation on the color. Yes, orange is a “high visibility” color. It’s not good for headlines or type because it’s not legible on white paper, but it’s excellent for backgrounds to draw the eye.

    Yellow is even more visible, but hard on the eyes, so its use must be limited. Black type on yellow is one of the highest contrast combinations for getting attention. It’s used on a lot of “warning” road signs for this reason.

    I don’t have specific numbers, but yes to color affecting response. It’s not that there are magic colors. It’s about using the right color at the right time.

    For example, I could use a bright yellow mailer for a high-end business mailing, but it would look like junk mail and probably wouldn’t make it to an executive’s desk. Blue would be a more businesslike color and more likely to get delivered even if it’s not as attention-grabbing.

    For lower end consumer mailings, the warmer or more garish colors wouldn’t hurt image as much and could draw attention.

  4. Janice C Cartier on August 20th, 2008 12:58 pm

    Ahh, that makes sense.

    I bought Made to Stick Sunday. ORANGE. With duct tape on the cover. James Chartrand reviewed a book on branding this morning. It had a very ugly TIDE- like cover, but great content he said. I am tempted. And now this envelope, I wanted to open it even though I do not even need the services…

    I feel like a Pavlov dog. ;-)

  5. Bob Firestone on August 20th, 2008 6:51 pm

    Janice, don’t feel alone. I hear great and I would totally have opened the envelope. And to top it off I just started reading made to stick.

  6. Janice C Cartier on August 20th, 2008 8:43 pm

    Bob- Phew! Good to know. But I am looking this envelope…what are those five things, maybe I DO need to know them…and it is such a nice color. Do direct marketers know more about me than I do?

    Made to stick grabbed me away from all the trashy novels I was considering. So far the content is good ( I cannot wait to see if the guys get the girl)…but this invasion of orange…and , uh, utilitarian design…could Dean be right? Could it not be about pretty at all…but …function?

    Next time I am at the bookstore I am counting colors of covers in the marketing section.

  7. Dean Rieck on August 20th, 2008 8:53 pm

    Janice: Ahem. Of course Dean is right. You even have to ask? :)

    Hey, let us know what you find out about book colors. This is a fascinating topic. I’ll have to do a post on it sometime.

  8. Janice C Cartier on August 20th, 2008 9:25 pm

    LOL. :-)

    With pleasure. I have been using the neighborhood B and N as my Sunday alternative office. I’ll get back to you on that count.

  9. Janice C Cartier on August 27th, 2008 4:06 pm

    Dean et al- Orange, big for marketing books this year. I did the informal count and some snooping around on Sunday…
    2/20 current business books on display-vivid orange or orange and blue, the money books were blue and green. Fully fifty per cent of these twenty books were white with orange or red text titles.
    Tim Ferris had gold and white to himself.

    On other displays, same thing, except maroons were used on serious executive skills titles….just saying. It could be a zig or a zag, but somebody in marketing publishing likes orange.

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