It’s the thing that haunts many direct marketers: After a thorough check, still — somehow — a mistake has made it into the direct mail piece. You know the log you wanted to crawl under after it happened to you? Stand proudly atop it instead, for it turns out you are in good company.
We invited marketers worldwide to share their embarrassing direct mail mistakes. The resultant outpouring of entertaining, unpretentious tales made choosing from among them a challenge. Here are the tales, regrettably pared and, ironically, with typos corrected.
- We were printing and inserting a credit card statement for a financial services provider. We were not responsible for the creative. Let’s just say the toll-free number had our customer service line ringing because a switch of a digit changed the line into a rather racy one of a sexual nature.
- Wrong list was used and one personalization (my favorite) was “Dear Mrs. Mother Superior.” The magazine was not all that pleased.
- Thirty years ago we did a mailing to “high-ups” but didn’t realize there were problems with the software that translated honorifics into a salutation. One R.A. (Member of the Royal Academy) was addressed as a Rear Admiral. He wrote the chairman asking for back pension for his newly exalted status as he had only been an ordinary seaman. Said chairman was not amused.
- Seven million pieces headed for the recycle bins. The offer was supposed to read “you and your spouse.” Instead it read “you and your souse.”
- Years ago a pharmaceutical company analyst related some of their problems. Salespeople were putting comments in the address rather than the notes field. A mailing yielded two very angry responses from separate medical groups. One received a mailing addressed to Dr. John Doe, “The Dead Guy.” Another received one to Ms. Mary Smith, “The one with the big butt.” Needless to say they were not getting business from those medical groups.
- A large cosmetics firm developed a mailer for a skin care product. The tagline was “Ten years younger? You be the judge!” We did the piece in 18 languages. The problem? Seems the words “judge” and “die” are much alike in Norwegian. The Norway mailer could be read as: “Ten years younger? Go kill yourself!” I think we sold ten bottles in Norway. Did well everywhere else, so it’s pretty clear what impact that “typo” had.
- We did a national thank-you campaign for veterinary clinics. Among the “services provided” in our database was euthanasia. Unfortunately, a large number of postcards went out reading “Thank you for bringing PETNAME in for euthanasia. We look forward to seeing PETNAME next time.” A lot of complaints and lost business.