Bad direct marketing –

Bad direct marketing –

Once in a while I see or receive a piece of marketing that drives me to despair at some of the rubbish the marketing profession can produce.
Last week’s source of anger was this piece of direct mail received at home last week:
It’s not a great picture, but just so we’re clear, it’s a box approx 4x4x4 inches, containing just a piece of paper folded up into a fortune teller like you used to make at school. Nothing else.
It’s from
The first problem with this is that I shouldn’t have received it in the first place. I’m on the Mailing Preference Service (MPS), which means I shouldn’t receive commercial direct marketing material, although I’m not absolutely sure whether this is considered commercial as it’s trying to get the recipient to sign an online petition, but the site’s backers are primarily commercial players with a commercial goal. Certainly not screening any mailing against the MPS list breaks the Direct Marketing Association‘s code of practice.
But that’s not my main bugbear with this mailing. It first arrived at our house last Thursday, but because there was no-one here when the post arrived, we got the note from the postman asking us to collect from the depot.
Given the 4 inch cube box never had a chance of fitting through a standard letterbox, the lesson here is that unsolicited direct mail that doesn’t fit through a letterbox is a great way to alienate your intended audience before they’ve even opened your mail piece.
The size of the fortune teller inside could probably have just about fitted in a box that would have gone through the letterbox – it may have been a little squashed but the box it came in had a lot of spare space in it – and a smaller box wouldn’t have cost the £1.20 that paid to send it to me.
I’m not making any comment on the campaign’s goal itself here – just the approach to direct marketing that they’ve chosen to take.
It just smacks to me of direct mailing that doesn’t take account of the audience’s context – sending an unsolicited mailing of a piece of folded paper in an overly large cardboard box suggests they don’t understand their consumers and that they have marketing budget to waste – something that doesn’t sit well with their positioning as a pseudo-grassroots campaign to eliminate a certain type of mobile phone charge rate.
Had an email the day after I wrote this post from Matt at 3mobilebuzz about this:

I’m writing to you concerning your blog post on the Terminate the Rate fortune teller. Though it was in support of Terminate the Rate, it was actually sent by 3mobilebuzz; as you were a previous Skypephone and Mobile Broadband trialist we thought this would be of interest to you.
An email informing you about both the fortune teller and the Terminate the Rate launch campaign was sent to you on the 20th May, but it may have been missed.
Please accept our apologies if you feel you should not have been sent anything from us. We’ll ensure you do not receive anything again and your details will be removed from our 3 contacts list.
Regarding the packaging, we felt that it was best to send the fortune tellers pre-made but obviously this meant they would not fit inside an envelope. Again, we apologise if you felt the packaging was
If you’d like to speak to anyone directly about this, please let me
know and we can arrange a call.

It’s good to see they’re monitoring for mentions of the campaign and nice to see an email response – while I stand by my original comments, Matt’s email goes some way to improving the reputation of the campaign in my eyes.


I work with technology-centric businesses as an interim Chief Operating Officer (COO), consultant and advisor. I created the B3 framework® for scaling technology businesses and I write a newsletter called Build for leaders who are building brilliant companies.