How NOT to do direct mail: an example of donkeysnot

As well as sharing the good ads with you, I like to share the donkeysnot ads, too.

Like this one, for example.

Example of poor direct mail advertising

Don’t fall into the same trap as Hiscox. Get help from me with your direct mail marketing.

This dropped through my door yesterday morning.

What’s wrong with it? Oh, let me count the ways.

I’ll start with the image, because that’s the first thing the eye is drawn to. It’s a conker. There’s really nothing more to say.


Pretentious bollocks. I still have no idea what they’re trying to sell me. If I weren’t a direct mail nerd, that’s as far as I’d have got. But I am a direct mail nerd, so I had a closer look.

“Business insurance for the small and the brave”. That’s what they’re selling. Well, I am small. And I am brave. Neither of those two things make any odds to insurance. Well, perhaps if it’s insurance specifically for small businesses, but from looking at this ad, I’m not sure.

Let’s turn it over. You can see the other side here.

“Overcoming challenges makes you stronger”.

Yes. And?

“We insure more than 180,000 businesses across the UK. It’s given us an insight into the unique challenges you face, and helped us develop the right policies for you.”

So what?

Much further down the other side of the leaflet, it comes to a few features and just about touches on benefits. But not really. Because the person who put this leaflet together doesn’t understand marketing or sales.

And I haven’t even mentioned the white and red copy on a black background, that makes it almost impossible to read comfortably. And the fact that it’s not obvious if they can track this. Their URL is terrible, by the way – it ends with /marketing. Which suggests they’re going to throw more marketing crap at you. URLs are important sales tools, too.

In short: here’s how not to do it, folks.

If Hiscox Insurance had Borrowed My Brain, they could’ve asked me about this before they spent what I assume is quite a lot of money on something 99.9% of people will throw away. And I would have helped them create something that would have got noticed by their target audience (me), read, and possibly even responded to. In fact, they could have done something really simple but amazing that would have guaranteed I’d have at least read it – and maybe bought insurance from them.

Because that’s one of my services. You can speak to me for half an hour over Skype and I’ll answer any questions you might have, and help you give your business the best possible chance of success. I can’t guarantee success; nobody can, and if they tell you they can, they’re lying.

But I can help you give your stuff a fighting chance.

You can Borrow My Brain, here.



Vicky Fraser is a copywriter, author, and entrepreneur. She really did run away with the circus… but when she’s not swinging from a trapeze, she’s showing other copywriters and small business owners how to work with better clients, make more money, and stop missing bathtimes, first words, and dinners with angry partners. In fact, she wrote the book on it. Get your copy here.


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