March 2015 - Direct Mail Bloopers

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When it comes to successful personalization, everything hinges on the database. It’s critical to keep your data clean and up to date. Here are some hilarious stories of what happens when you don’t. These true tales are taken from LinkedIn’s Direct Mail discussion group.

  • The California Department of Health sent a direct mailing to 50,000 residents who receive adult day care. The addresses were right, but the envelopes contained a gift for identity thieves. Recipients’ Social Security numbers were printed right on the envelopes!

  • A direct mail house did not properly de-dupe its client’s mailing list. When the mailing went out, one hapless recipient ended up with several hundred pieces of identical mail!

  • At one women's college, many alumni prefer to have their mailing names listed as “Mrs.,” such as “Mrs. John Smith.” During one campaign, the mail house dropped the titles in the NCOA process and ended up sending the mailing to many of the alumni’s husbands instead.

  • When the U.K.'s national airline was creating its passenger database, someone thought it would be funny to expand the passengers’ initials into military titles. So R. A. Smith became Rear Admiral Smith. The airline chairman received several letters from recipients requesting that they receive backdated pensions based on their elevated titles. It was funny until the data company had to hand search and correct every single title within 24 hours. All 50,000 of them.

  • During one holiday season, a purveyor of fine meats and other food specialty items dropped 20,000 catalogs with an 800 number to call for faster service. Unfortunately, the number was wrong. Recipients ended up calling a funeral home.


    We hope you get a few laughs out these stories, but there is very serious reason for sharing them. Data handling isn’t funny business. Talk to us before your next mailing to make sure your data is in the best shape it can be.