You want to stick the laser gun where?

Part 2

Further to last Friday’s blog, here’s another story of good intentions gone bad – and building evacuations. The case of a marketer, a mailing, a laser gun, a public servant and my posterior.

3-D mailpacks are an excellent creative solution when you have a high quality list with a relevant offer and are prepared to invest in generating a lead or a sale. They work because they are tactile and have perceived tangible value. And they really break through the clutter in the digital world.

More importantly they help get past a senior executive’s gatekeeper because they create a dilemma: the gatekeeper isn’t sure if the boss is expecting the package and so can’t make a decision to throw it out. And because 3-D mailpacks are out of the ordinary, they often evoke reactions and emotions not normally displayed in the working environment. So they can create a bit of fun.

However, creating a 3-D mailpack just for the sake of it, doesn’t guarantee success. Like any communication, it must be relevant to the prospect and communicate a benefit or a reason for a response. And you should research your mailpack with your prospects prior to creating the final product.

Which leads me to the time I was running Ogilvy & Mather Direct in the late 1980s.  Our client was a leading office equipment brand. We were asked to create a lead generation campaign amongst senior information technology decision-makers. Our objective was to get people to respond for a demonstration of a top-of-the-range laser printer worth over $500,000 per unit. The offer was a $50,000 saving – a simple 10% discount.

So we created a 3-D mailpack, which included a toy laser gun nested in a box. The headline on the front of the box said “We’d like to shoot down some misconceptions you may have about the price of laser printers

tn_FXA Laser Gun Pack

When you opened the lid of the box, you couldn’t resist grabbing the gun and firing it – complete with loud noise and accompanying flashing lights. The headline inside highlighted the saving of $50,000.

tn_FXA Laser gun reveal

The intention was to involve prospects with the mailpack via the laser gun – a tenuous link to the laser printer we were flogging. To make sure there would be no problems mailing the packs, we had Australia Post test one through their postal system; it arrived in good condition with the laser gun still in place, so they gave it the thumbs up.

postman pat

Given the test results, we rolled out the campaign and waited for the responses – and they were immediate. Unfortunately they weren’t the sort we desired. The prospects who received these mailpacks were very senior decision-makers and a number of them worked in some very sensitive industries, such as defense and export to the Middle East. In some of the mailpacks, the laser guns had come loose in the box and were already making noises when the box was delivered. This caused panic and building evacuations in a few companies and government departments.

In a mining town in Western Australia an X-ray machine detected the gun and the mailpack was isolated in the middle of a street. The Bomb Squad flew from Perth by helicopter (closely followed by a network news helicopter) to blow it up. The locals weren’t amused as part of the town had to be evacuated for the exercise. But we did get to watch our mailing explode on national news.

bomb squad

The head of a government-run department that deals with Iraq, Iran and other Middle East countries, rang the client and then rang me, after his office was evacuated. He told me in no uncertain terms where he wanted to stick the laser gun. Please use your imagination dear reader. Suffice to say I would have had difficulty walking and performing other normal daily functions.

Assume the position Mr Auld
Assume the position Mr Auld

In some cases where the mailpack had caused mass panic, companies threatened not to do business with our client again. While we did generate some positive leads, it’s safe to say that the campaign didn’t achieve its objective. Although a number of recipients wanted to know where we’d sourced the laser guns, so they could get some for their kids.

If we’d thought about it more carefully, we could have targeted this small and tightly defined market by simply writing a personalised letter with an offer — ‘Save $50,000 if you buy now!’. But hey, we were a creative agency, so we designed a creative mailpack.

The only good news was the client forgave us and we kept the business – after all, they had enthusiastically approved the mailing.

In Part 3 – my next post – we’ll discover the dangers posed by mailing tubes. If used incorrectly they can cause serious injury, as well as damage your brand…


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