The b direct logo Hive

Mailbox Monday


Over the years, we've ordered tens of thousands of imprinted premium items for clients. That used to mean calling a specialty products representative and having her come in with samples. Now, like so much else in our industry, the entire transaction can happen online.

One of the digital vendors we've worked with is Custom Ink. And, we've been very happy with the results. So, when we received their self-mailer, we were eager to see what was new, what promotions they might be offering, and how they'd market their online store offline.

The cover of the colorful 5 7/8" x 7 3/8" package shows three millennials looking at a computer screen. "GET DOWN TO BUSINESS," the headline encourages, "in custom gear." Custom Ink's cute octopus logo appears in the lower right corner cut.

The mail panel is pretty busy. Above the address area (in what we call "a direct mail hot spot") is an offer for customized PopSockets. A cute teaser reads, "Stay on top," followed by copy that promotes the items. Next to the address area, two features are called out: "FREE Shipping" and " Guaranteed on-time delivery." In smaller type (quite small and reversed out, unfortunately), a call-to-action suggests, "Start your order today" with a URL and a toll-free number.

The mailer, which is a double gate, opens to show an imprinted backpack with other items spilling out from it. "Pack their bags," instructs the headline, "Set your team up for success with custom gear for the road or the office." Captions point to various items in the photo listing features and benefits. The treatment is engaging and will likely be read. At the bottom of this first reveal, there are logos for the various brands Custom Ink sells, like Adidas, North Face, Nike, etc.

One minor issue we had at this stage was that the paper has been trimmed a bit too agressively to accommodate the next fold. The image is cut in half with a full quarter of an inch of the inside spread revealed.

Speaking of which, the inside spread continues with "Layers of layers." In this case various items are described with call-outs, from a phone case to a water bottle to a hat, a t-shirt, polo, and quarter zip. Below, another headline promotes "Giveaways Galore." A call-to-action "ORDER TODAY" is again followed with the URL and phone number.

The package is certainly eye-catching: bright and colorful. It conveys a professional organization with quality options and plenty of them. But, something doesn't feel quite right. The photos on the cover, the first reveal and the top of the interior spread show promotional items for a (mythical, we assume) company called Observer Augmented Reality. (And, good casting, btw; the models look just like the young, successful, slightly nerdy people who would work at such a place.) The items in the lower part of the inside spread are imprinted with "Your Firm Design Here," "Your Agency Here," etc.

At first we thought Custom Ink should go one way (the fictional organization) or the other ("Your Brand Here"). Then, we realized that they had actually missed an opportunity to make their media match their message.

Variable data printing offers higher quality at a lower price than it used to. This campaign would have been more targeted — and would have stayed in the hands of the recipients longer — if they had individualized each piece. In other words, if the items they showed had been "imprinted" with our agency's name. If doing so was cost-prohibitive, they could have cut a panel of the mailer. It still would have had more impact.

The mailer is not bad, per se, as is. However, given the promise of customization built-in to the marketer's very name, a more customized mailer would simply make sense.

Thumbs down from the Bs at (your agency here).

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