Category Archives: direct mail

Are You Experienced Enough to Protect the Brand?

Are You Experienced? Ah! Have you ever been experienced? Well, I have
          Jimi Hendrix
Released in 1967, Are You Experienced was an expression of teenage angst, “free-love”, and drug use (tripping balls on LSD) with a left turn in the final line:
Ah! But Are You Experienced? Have you ever been experienced?

Not necessarily stoned, but beautiful

In the last line, the song tried to wink and nod that it wasn’t about sex and drugs, but about feeling your inner beauty.  It became a Peter, Paul and Mary folk song with a driving electric guitar.
This song was born from a generation that yelled, “Don’t trust anyone over 30!”  Unfortunately, Jimi didn’t live long enough to be mistrusted.
Illustration by Craig Swanson
Forty-seven years later society is now embracing Millenials with an attitude of, “Trust anyone under 30!”  Some companies believe the under-30 crowd entering the workforce know how to speak to the 18 to 34 demographic.  Others just see them as cheap labor willing to accept lower pay in exchange for a title and perceived authority.
But, does their arrogance damage the brand?
Learning from mistakes requires enough time to have made mistakes from with to learn – with enough experience to be humble enough to acknowledge mistakes were made.

A Lesson Learned

“Just because your Mom laughed at the joke doesn’t make it good.”
The above example arrived in mailboxes as part of a ValPak card deck which consisting of 40 to 50 individual, double-sided advertisements.  Depending upon how the envelope is opened determines which side of the offer is seen first.  An advertisement has about one-second to capture the reader’s attention – as card decks are often sorted over a trashcan.
So, why did this piece end up in the garbage?
  1. George Burns Impersonator.  To whom is this advertisement aimed?  George Burns last appeared on screen in 1994 and died in 1996.  This image has no more relevance to twenty-somethings than an image of Harold Lloyd.
  2. Tagline.  Lose the Goo!?  This piece COULD NOT have been focused-grouped with a 65 to 84 demographic as the 35 to 44 demographic responded with, “What the hell!”
  3.  Dentures and “goo”.  The adage, “I like hot dogs, so I never want to see how they’re made.” fits this image.  It’s like selling adult diapers by showing an older model with wet pants and the tagline, “Next time, better use Depends.”
  4.  Fonts.  It’s a rookie mistake to use multiple fonts on one advertisement – particularly one of this size.  Pick two and be consistent.
  5. Offers.  What are they?  The line art images do not draw the eye to the individual offers and the font of the pricing overwhelms the description.  The florescent green-yellow splotches are annoyance.
  6.  Logo.  Or lack of logo.  The image at the bottom is NOT the logo for the dental practice who sent the advertisement.  The practice’s logo should be prominent on both sides of the offer – not a vendor.
  7. Expiration date.  This piece does not state the offers are a sale price — so why does the offer expire.  If there is an expiration date on a piece it should have an explanation as to what will expire.  A better line is, “Prices subject to change.”
A few facts about this example:  a.) It was produced by a 26-year-old, b.) It cost the business $1,600.00 for printing and mailing.

The Price of Experience

“Don’t worry.  I’ve logged hundreds of hours . . . on a simulator.”
The dental practice purportedly hired the person responsible for this piece in a cost-cutting measure.  They reported the person was willing to do the job for one-third the wage of the previous marketing director.  It now takes 2 ½ inexperienced people to do the job previously done by a single, seasoned professional.
What is important regarding this mailer, and subsequent mailers like this, is the loss of the dental practice’s reputation and credibility.  By entrusting their marketing to an inexperienced team they make themselves look inexperienced.  Any goodwill established with earlier marketing pieces is diminished with a ham-handed attempt at humor.
But, with the lack of branding on both sides of the advertisement, hopefully all they lost was 1,600 bucks.

If you have questions regarding your practice’s marketing strategy, feel free to contact me at