Wearing Your Heart on Your Envelope: Emotion and Direct Mail


Wearing-your-heart-on-your-envelope-emotion-and-direct-mailSometimes we make fun of people who wear their hearts on their sleeves—showing their feelings a bit too freely. But is it ever permissible to wear your heart on your envelope? Does emotion have a place in direct mail?

Absolutely! As a matter of fact, there are times when an absence of emotion would seem glaringly out of place. Appeals for nonprofit organizations that deal with disasters or with feeding hungry children would fall flat if there wasn’t a sense that the people within the organization cared about what they’re doing.

It’s even OK to be excited about a product or a service. As a matter of fact, if your not excited about what you’re promoting, why should anyone else be?

There’s a big difference, however, between showing emotion or eliciting emotion from your audience and using emotion to manipulate people.

Showing an image of a homeless person or a hungry child on the outside of a direct mail envelope can be an effective way to grab attention—and to elicit a proper emotion of compassion or caring from an audience. A headline that appeals to that sense of compassion is appropriate—as long as it doesn’t go too far. Manipulating people with guilt (“How can you sit there eating your steak dinner while this child starves?”) isn’t appropriate. And by the way, it will kill your response.

Acknowledging (or raising awareness of) a legitimate concern (“You may be paying too much for your car insurance.”) is great. It brings up an issue people may not be aware of and it hints at a solution. Preying on people’s fears (“12,000 seniors had their homes broken into last month!”) is a manipulative way to sell home security systems.

We’re emotional beings. We want others to address the things that concern us, worry us, or even make us happy. We want people to understand how we feel. But nobody likes having their feelings used to take advantage of them.

It’s OK to use emotion in your direct mail. As a matter of fact, it’s more than OK. If it’s done properly and you are addressing the things that concern people, worry them, or make them happy, that’s really good. But make sure you have their best interests in mind. Never use their emotions to get them to do what you want them to do.

By the way, that’s one of the key elements of “pull” marketing—marketing that pulls potential customers to you because they know that what you have to offer will help them address their felt needs. If you’d like to know more about this, download our free Push and Pull Marketing—Why You Need Both eBook.

It’s OK to wear your heart on your sleeve—or on your envelope. Just make sure you also “handle with care!”

Direct Mail Best Practices