Brandweek had a story this week that resonated with me, since it was about one of my pet peeves -- deceptive direct mail.
I don't mean deceptive content, but deceptive packaging designed to trick the recipient into opening it.
The article tells of various ploys -- putting red and blue stripes around the edge of the envelope, so it looks like express mail.
Or using an official-looking Washington DC return address.
Or printing "time sensitive" across the front.
We've all seen the various tricks. One I especially resent is when I get an envelope from a company I do business with, like a bank or credit card company. Above my name and address is printed: "Important information about your account." OK, I do business with Chase and Bank of America, so maybe I should read this letter. When I open it, it has nothing at all to do with my account except that they're offering me another credit card or inviting me to use the enclosed check to transfer money into my credit card account -- in other words, take a loan (for 16 or 21%, no thank you.)
To me, such mailings are not only annoying, but a breach of the relationship with me, their customer. Don't try to trick me into opening your mailing by using our existing business relationship.
When I get such mailings, I take the postage-paid reply envelope and stuff it with as much of other companies' junk mail as I can fit. Then I seal it and drop it into the mailbox. Waste my time; I'll make you pay for it.
The Brandweek story says direct mail does work. It must, or so many companies wouldn't keep using it. But if the shady tactics -- and the ones I've described are just the tip of the iceberg -- continue, more consumers will rally and try to put a stop to it. Brandweek says nine states, including biggies like New York, Illinois and Michigan already have bills on the docket that, if passed, would establish Do Not Mail databases.
Given the popularity of Do Not Call registries that stop telemarketers, direct mailers have cause to be nervous.
If the DMA and the industry don't police themselves more effectively, the government may do it for them.