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  • Jo Evans

What is the difference between junk mail and a good sales letter?

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

What’s the difference between a good piece of direct mail and a “junk” piece?

Not all direct mail is junk mail. A clear message, with a good offer, sent to those who want to receive it is not junk mail. But there are some howlers out there that’s for sure.

Whilst busy gathering examples of good and bad direct mail (as it’s always good for the archives! We keep them in the basement here at The Frogplex), we asked members of the Institute of Direct Marketing via LinkedIn to send us some of the shocking examples they have seen over the years.  This created quite and animated discussion between marketers to define what “bad” actually means.

One member, and we credit Ian Ramsden from Direct Solutions Int Ltd for this, listed his suggestions for what makes for a dreadful direct mail letter:

  1. Poor targeting that consigns the piece to the bin – immediately

  2. No copy on the envelope that encourages me to open it and read more

  3. Contains copy that only talks features and not benefits

  4. Copy that doesn’t follow the AIDCA principle (Attention, Interest, Desire, Conviction, Action)

  5. Doesn’t get to the main point within 3 paragraphs

  6. Littered with poor grammar and punctuation

  7. Line lengths that stretch from here to infinity

  8. No subheads to make me want to read on and on and on and….

  9. Printed in an unreadable typeface that’s so small I need a magnifying glass

  10. Type printed over a picture (with a drop shadow) because it looks “trendy”

  11. Doesn’t repeat the offer several times (because the writer assumes I’m an elephant and never forgets what I’ve just read)

  12. Doesn’t put explanatory captions under any pictures or illustrations (because the marketer knows what they are and assumes the reader is as knowledgeable as he is)

Of course there are the humorous examples. One of us here at EFM was recently congratulated on her 50th birthday (she was 35 –  didnt find it funny at the time, mind!) and one piece we received inviting us to a lavish do had no response mechanism included. We were the only ones that turned up! Fine by us as they had opened dozens of bottles of wine in anticipation!

Do you have any examples of what makes a good or bad piece of Direct Marketing? We’d love to hear your stories of mail you have received and what made them stand out (for good reasons or bad!).

We’ll keep a blog of the best examples – removing names to protect the innocent of course!

Leave a comment below or contact us at

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