A direct mail promotion that had recipients seeing red

Bloodbags ready to mail
Handle with care – blood bags ready to mail

UPDATE: This post was voted part of a “Best Answer” to a question posed on LinkedIn.

Mark Gallagher and Laura Savard of Blackcoffee, a brand expression consultancy in Boston, asked Sophwell to help produce a promotion that would excite and arouse both clients and prospects. The color red and the sight of blood certainly offered that potential.

Their concept was a “blood bag” promotion to be mailed for Halloween, with a label mimicking the real thing, and the phrase “B Positive” to both tie in to the theme and offer an upbeat message in a slowing economy. They brought me in early in the design process to ensure that the mailer could be produced AND that the post office would mail it. I offered three recommendations:

  1. Make the bags rigid enough to meet postal requirements.
  2. Prominently label it as fake blood, or postal workers and recipients may call in the biohazard SWAT team.
  3. Include a marketing offer to track response.

Early challenges they gave Sophwell were finding a clear bag material that would seal without puncturing in the mail, and finding a fake blood material that was affordable and realistic. For the marketing offer I recommended, Blackcoffee added, “To learn how to resuscitate your brand and receive a free copy of HERITAGE BRANDING, visit Blackcoffee.com.” They featured a download of this White Paper on their home page.

Once those hurdles were overcome, a sample of the finished piece went to a Mail Design Analyst at the Boston postal business office who gave it his blessing with minor modifications. Because the material was plastic (along with having liquid inside), it could NOT be machine mailed, and Blackcoffee paid a “Hand Cancel” surcharge on top of the first class mail postage.

The result? Within days of the mailing the phone started to ring. The first call was from an outraged postal worker complaining that a bag had opened up in one of their machines, and Blackcoffee would have to pay for repairs. When it was explained that the piece had been approved at the business office and a hand cancel surcharge had been paid, the worker said, “Oh,” and hung up. The next call was from a company saying their receptionist who sorted the mail was “deeply disturbed,” and asked to go home early.

The third call was from a past client responding, “We’ve been meaning to call you.” They gave Blackcoffee a project that paid far more than the cost of the mailing. Other clients and prospects called to say how much they loved the mailing, and within two weeks Blackcoffee had their hands full with new business proposals. Tracking the number of White Paper downloads from their website showed a better than 25% response rate, plus many more visitors to their website in the days after the mailing.

Got a creative idea? Let me help you translate it into reality.

With over 30 years of working inside and outside printing, promotional and marketing companies, Jamie Bradley helps clients source and produce great marketing materials. He writes these occasional blogs to share ideas on how to create better and more effective products.

3 Comments on “A direct mail promotion that had recipients seeing red

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