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Mailbox Monday

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No one wants to think about "back to school" quite yet. That said, we have to give BJ's Wholesale Club credit for waiting until the end of July to send their back to school mailing. (Other retailers started weeks ago.) The colorful self-mailer stood out in a mailbox filled with monthly statements and other correspondence.

The cover of the piece features an extremely happy little boy ready to "Go back with big savings." A teaser message under the photo reads "Don't stress. We have savings to help." There are cute spot illustrations of notebooks and a healthy snack. Friendly, colorful, engaging.

On the address panel. along with BJ's return address and a standard indicia, there are more illustrations (tape, crayons, a tablet, cookies, pencil) with another message that says, "Look inside for your handpicked offers." Finally — and what got us most excited — there's a Zapcode and instructions to "Download the Zappar App and scan here to learn how to 'Shop the way you want.'"

We followed the directions and waited for our augmented reality experience — relatively new technology that mailers should use more often. (Read more about it here: http://www.bdirectmktg.com/blog/augmented-reality-enhanced-engagement-increased-results.) Alas, after several attempts, we had to abort. The app successfully scanned the code, but nothing happened. The hidden content stayed hidden.

The self-mailer was sealed with fugitive glue. Thoroughly sealed. In fact, it took more than a few moments to determine how the piece should open (turns out it opens like a book, like a very thoroughly sealed book). The first reveal (the package is a double gate) includes a dozen microperfed coupons and a headline announcing that the corresponding deals were "Chosen just for you." There's just one problem.

None of the offers are relevant.

We were surprised to note that not a single coupon represented an item that the mail recipient has ever purchased at BJ's. This potential personal touch (so easy to implement with 1:1 digital printing and past purchase history, data BJ's certainly has access to) isn't just a missed opportunity; it's a liability. The customer, used to the data-driven offers we all get on those fourteen-foot CVS receipts, has to wonder whether BJ's has been paying attention. An additional observation: most of the items have nothing to do with going back to school.

When the piece is opened once more, revealing the cover photo with the addition of the boy's dad handing him a soccer ball. Copy reads "With our great prices on school supplies, you can focus on other things — like making sure your kids are ready to take on the year ahead." We find more cute illustrations, and a handy supplies and snacks checklist with typical items listed (items, we assume, available at BJ's) and extra room for Mom or Dad to add to the list.

This direct mail campaign started off on the right foot, but quickly disappointed. The Zapcode didn't work; the offers weren't individualized; the concept didn't follow through. Three strikes, we're out.

The Bs at B Direct give the mailer a thumbs down.

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