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Mailbox Monday


William Schwenck Gilbert (of Gilbert & Sullivan fame) wrote, "The punishment fits the crime." In marketing, we say "The medium fits the message." So, what do you do if you're designing a package to sell a credit card with a $695 annual fee? You pull out all the stops!

And, that's just what the creative team did for the direct mail package we received over the weekend.

To start, the package is a liberal 5.5" x 9.5". A little oversized, but sleek. "You're pe-approved" reads a teaser on the address side, along with the familiar figure of a Roman centurion in silver ink. The back of the package has an elegant die-cut flap with several promotional messages. "Get back to life with the new platinum," it reads, leveraging everyone's desire to end pandemic era isolation. We're offered "150,000 Membership Rewards Points" and "10X points at restaurants." There's subtle American Express branding: their logo and updated theme "Don't live life without it." And one other very strange message: "With access to our Centurion Lounges, you'll be able to enjoy the American Express Signature Scent. Open here to get a sneak peek!"

How you "peek" a scent is a bit puzzling. But, we were certainly intrigued enough to open.

Inside, the piece, which turned out to be an elaborate self-mailing folder, offers a QR code, an image of a platinum card, an aspirational photo of two men poolside, and the aforementioned "signature scent." Using "scratch and sniff" printing, the piece did indeed encourage that extra bit of interactivity. However, when we "gently rubbed" the prescribed area, all we smelled was ... paper.

Which brings us to one of the nicest aspects of the package. The paper is thick and feels rich. Tactilely speaking, we already feel like a VIP.

Inside the piece's folder pouch, there's a 12-page (!) color brochure, which introduces "the new Platinum" and walks us through myriad benefits and privileges, as it sparks the imagination with lots of photos of lots of people enjoying lots of lifestyle. The back cover includes another QR code and multiple, emphatic calls-to-action.

Finally, there's a letter, also printed on nice stock although looking more like a promotional flyer than a letter. It includes multiple offers and the assurance that "When you add up all the benefits of Membership — including the world-class service that American Express is known for — you'll find that the $695 annual fee quickly pays for itself."

Hmmm ... we'll take their word for that.

All in all, the package is handsome and upscale. The production values support the high-end solution that's being marketed. It's a little busy, but most credit card packages are. It feels valuable.

Just one problem.

The piece was sent to a (very) recent college graduate who is not yet earning anywhere near enough to take advantage of the card's benefits, much less pay the high-ticket annual fee. To make matters worse, although her name is correctly spelled, the package was delivered to "Mr." not "Ms."

The piece gets a thumbs-up for creative and production, but a thumbs-down for targeting.

Data hygiene, don't send expensive acquisiton campaigns without it.



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