Nothing Like a Plain Brown Wrapper

I was part of a panel of creatives making a presentation at the Bridge Conference this past July; we were flashing around fundraising creative that lit us up. (We were great; we can’t help it. It’s the way we are, she said modestly.)

I couldn’t wait to dazzle people with an envelope that dazzled me. It isn’t direct mail; it’s actually from someone in Japan who sold something to my husband the antiques dealer on eBay. It arrived in the mail and I snatched it right out of Jonathan’s hand in my creative lust. (That’s a sexier way of saying I am a mail nerd, and simply can’t get enough of glomming onto whatever shows up in the mailbox each day.)  “I gotta have this!”

Jonathan, long used to my peculiarities, said “Well, let me get the object out of the envelope first.”

Look at this baby. I mean – really.

Front of carrier

As fundraisers, we spend our lives attempting to recreate the personal touch. You’ve done it too – printed a coffee ring on a carrier, used a faux stamp effect, sorted endlessly through “handwritten” fonts to find one that might look like Bitsy the secretary wrote out the name and address with the ballpoint on her desk before toddling off to the mailbox on the corner.

Well, this envelope has it all.  We’ve got labels aplenty – including one that wraps from the front to the back. Multiple stamps. A perplexing warning about lithium batteries. That peculiar vertical format. Clear tape affixed almost randomly. A tempting bagkraft paper stock. And even a boot print from when Jonathan’s purchase fell unnoticed to the floor of some gigantic sorting warehouse between Japan and Virginia and some callous worker in an industrial daze walked right over it. AWESOME!

Isn’t it glorious?

Would YOU be allowed to mail such a thing? Or would the bank of reviewers at your elbow come up with reasons why you should rein it in?

Others may hope to use the envelope to begin an education, or fulfill a Board member’s requirements, or force just one more photo onto the mailing, but the creative person you’re working with has no illusions. I’d rather send ANY letter in a carrier that said “Guess what I just heard about you?!” than any other (and that includes my Gold Medal standard that Roger Craver mailed early on for the ACLU when they were defending the KKK’s right to march; his teaser said “DEFEND THE BASTARDS” and I salute that genius every single day).

But CONTEXT is everything. If you get a crapped-up carrier from Japan and it feels like it has something inside it (you’ll ask what Jonathan had purchased and I have no idea; say it was a vintage postcard), then you’ll open it. If you’re at the drug store and a whole rack of magazines have plain brown wrappers, then you know what that’s hiding and you’ll WANT to open it as long as no one you’ve ever known or will know is within your line of sight.

(Funny – there are no dirty magazines in plain brown wrappers any more, with internet porn just going begging… and there aren’t really many drug stores either! Forgive me. I’m old.)

Is there a summary message for this love letter to outer envelopes? There is – it is this:

The envelope’s only job is to get opened. Send the same boring envelope you’ve always mailed that no one objects to and then test it against something dazzling. See what happens. Betcha nickel the dazzler wins the test.

Meet you at the mailbox!