“Go away, boy, you bother me!” – 4 Things Foghorn Leghorn Teaches Us about Direct Mail

foghorn leghornAs much as we hate to admit it, direct mail is to some folks what Henery Hawk was to Foghorn Leghorn – a small nuisance easily disposed of but persistently returning to annoy, over and over and over….

Good ol’ boy Foggy could always temporarily dispose of the chicken hawk, but Henery was a persistent little predator, and Foghorn frequently lost his feathers in the kerfuffle.

Now Dawg, he was another matter.  Ol’ Foghorn was always whacking him from behind, but Dawg generally found an innovative way of entrapping the rooster – getting his attention, so to speak, and conveying his message loud and clear.

Foggy wasn’t terribly original in his approach. A paddle and the chained-up hound was all he ever looked for.  But Dawg came up with some masterful concepts. His message did not get lost, nor was he easily disposed of.

If you’re going to spend a lot of time, effort, and money on an advertising concept, you probably don’t want your mail piece trashed (or blown up, or crushed by an anvil). So, what do Foghorn’s failures (and Dawg’s successes) teach us?

Innovation is the key to attention-getting. Here are four wildly-to-mildly innovative approaches to direct mail that can keep your mail piece from being examined over an open trashcan:

  1. Cartoons Yep, cartoons aren’t only useful as a hook for a blog (ahem!).  There are folks who specialize in providing customized cartoons for your advertising efforts. You can also acquire the rights to pre-existing cartoons that fit your campaign. Laughter is a great hook, and a funny cartoon on the outside of a mail piece is a great way to get a second and third look.
  2. Dimensional mailers.  Dimensional mailers are fabulous attention-getters. There are many kinds to choose from these days, including formed plastic shapes that go straight in the mail as-is, beautifully designed 3D-paper graphics that are almost irresistible, as well as more traditional packaging that visibly contain t-shirts, posters, puzzles, etc.
  3. “Bulky” mail. The lower-cost cousin of the more dramatic dimensional mailers, enclosing inexpensive, small freebies – rulers, pens, notepads, etc – in more traditional packaging still works very well. The idea is to add bulk to the envelope so the recipient can’t stop himself; he has to open it to retrieve his gift. After all, who would throw something potentially useful straight into the trash bin, unseen? (But be sure to check with your lettershop or the USPS for restrictions and pricing on “bulky” mail.)
  4. Brightly-colored mailers. This second-cousin-once-removed of all of the above is still very effective, and often under-utilized. A beautifully-colored outer envelope can be almost as irresistible as a hidden gift. One caveat issued by some experts:  avoid glaring marketing jargon on the outside. The object is to get it opened, so use the lively attraction of the colors to create curiosity, and save the marketing message for the materials inside.

If you use your imagination, you, too, can avoid having your beautiful and expensive mail piece dropped off a cliff!