The b direct logo Hive

Mailbox Monday


​Let's talk about a dry subject: commercial insurance. As a small business, B Direct gets solicitations from insurance providers almost as often as we get financing offers from banks (almost, but not quite).

This morning, we received an unusual package from Progressive. With it's original (and not typically business-y) art and oversized carrier, it certainly stood out from the rest of the mailbox.

A plumber appears on the front, directly under the address window, struggling with a leaky pipe. In addition to work pants and boots, he's wearing a chain mail tunic. Kind of a cross between This Old House and the Knights of the Round Table. A teaser reads "Find out what it means to be fearless." Bleeding over to the back of the package, a sea serpent stretches menacing tentacles toward our hero as flood waters start to rise.

Nothing dry about that (no pun intended).

The carrier opens with a perforated zip pull, teasing "Unleash Your Business Potential." Between the art and the architecture, it's virtually impossible to resist opening. There are two pieces inside, a letter and a 4-page brochure. 

The letter works hard, but is missing something. It's addressed, but not personalized. There's no salutation, no signator, no date and no P.S. So, while it looks like a letter, it's really not a letter. As direct marketers, we're disappointed. In a creative package like this one, the letter is the chance to use 1:1, real-person to real-person, communication to make a big idea personally relevant. That said, there's plenty of good information. It's well organized and art directed to accommodate different reading styles. Still, we miss that personal touch, which would have been especially valuable for a product as impersonal as commercial insurance.

The brochure fares better, continuing the business-owner as action-hero theme with two additional illustrations. A carpenter on the cover and a florist inside face dragons as well as business challenges. While the letter promoted insurance products, the brochure focuses on a value-added offer, a marketing toolkit, a "FREE series of resources, designed exclusively for business owners like you."

The package earns high points for creativity, but it's a bit unfocused and incongruent. Why would we look to an insurance provider for marketing help? What is the single thing Progressive wants us to do? The answer changes depending on which piece of the package we read. There's too much going on from an offer strategy perspective. And while the illustrations are entertaining, we aren't plumbers, carpenters or florists. More examples (including more generic ones, like a person at a desk) would be more relatable.

It almost feels like the package was designed by an ad agency creative team rather than a direct marketing creative team. The words ad pictures are great, but overall the piece is missing some simple direct mail smarts that would make it a home run.

The Bs give it a thumbs-up for creativity, but a thumbs-down for not including some tried-and-true direct mail tricks. That nets neutral. 

Regardless, we hope it does well because it was certainly more fun than the average insurance package.

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