If it quacks like a mail merge

16Nov12

While sorting through some mail the other day, I noticed what appeared to be a greeting card from a local business. My address on the envelope almost looked hand-written, but closer inspection showed that it was just a computer font designed to mimic handwriting. As I opened the envelope, I found a generic “Happy Thanksgiving” card inside, with zero attempt by the sender to personalize it.

What’s wrong with this picture? Aside from the question of when Thanksgiving became a greeting card holiday, the sender obviously printed up the envelopes through some sort of mail merge. That’s all fine and good, but they also selected a font for the envelope that was apparently designed to look hand-written. Thus, the address sets the expectation that there might be something personalized inside, but the contents are entirely generic.

As a result, the recipient gets the impression that the sender thinks they’re dumb enough to be fooled by a fancy font, even when the card inside lacks any personalization. Presuming that the purpose of sending this type of card is to stay front of mind and build loyalty, I’d say the end result is likely to fall quite a bit short.

What’s the takeaway here? If you’re going to use mail merge or another mass mailing feature, don’t try to disguise an impersonal communication as a personalized one. Sure, people might be more likely to throw away an envelope that’s addressed in a regular computer font than a handwriting-style one. But at least those who open the envelope won’t feel like they were tricked into doing so by the promise of a personalized message.



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