Raining dogs through the mailbox

Penhire received this disastrous piece of direct mail from Vhi Healthcare last week.

Well, maybe I’ll save “disastrous” for something truly awful – this was merely a weak pun that was fiddly, difficult to read and poorly executed.

The mail in question was designed to let the reader know of the different types of cover their Vhi membership entitled them to, summed up by the tagline “All the cover you need”. Accompanying a standard letter was a triangular-shaped concertina of gloss paper which, when unfolded, became an umbrella. Except it didn’t. With no tabs or gluing device, after a fleeting “I-guess-that-could-kind-of-be-an-umbrella” moment, the low-weight paper just sort of weakly flopped flat on to the table (See photo for the vital pre-flop moment).

Unable to muster any enjoyment from the physical joke, I turned to the text. On the front side of the piece, each type of cover (holiday, maternity, hospital etc) is represented on a triangular “segment” of the umbrella. Each segment is perforated along both sides, leading me to assume that, after constructing your umbrella, Vhi wished you to remove the segment most relevant to your needs for future reference. But for that to work, the text corresponding to the type of cover would need to be on the other side. It wasn’t. For reasons unbeknown, the concise breakdown of each policy on the back of the segment does not correspond to the type of cover described on the front.

So, all up, a truly baffling piece. My question is simply: why bother?

Undoubtedly some expense had been gone into producing a perforated, non-standard shaped and sized direct mail piece. Surely it would have been wise to check if the concept worked before ordering 10,000 or so. This seems a good example of trying to be clever simply for the sake of it, with little thought given to how the recipient will interact with the end result. It is possible a simple, small booklet would have been much more easily read and therefore, more effective.

On the other hand, perhaps the fact the piece does not physically work doesn’t really matter - or is even to its advantage. Rather than immediately dismissing it, the unusual shape may have attracted a greater percentage of customers to actually look at it. And because the umbrella was essentially "unconstructable", some of those customers may have spent more time than usual trying to figure out how it worked – perhaps taking in more of the text along the way.

And Vhi have to be given a few brownie points for the prescience of the piece. Who could have known it would be bucketing down the week it came out?


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