How Not to Market a Marketing Magazine

I received an unsolicited copy of Deliver Magazine this week. I don’t get a lot of business mail in general, and, as a certified junk mail junkie, I look at everything. It took me more than a few seconds, however, to discern the focus of the publication (more on that below), but a quick browse of the articles led me to the conclusion I was looking at a publication about direct marketing in general, and direct mail in particular. The publisher? This took even more digging because, for what I’m sure was a very conscious, strategic reason (though what that reason is escapes me at present), they bury their brand completely. It’s the United States Postal Service.

First, the good. It’s an informative read. Granted, I’m in the business, but even then, the articles are concise, well-written, and topical. I’m saving the magazine for a planned business trip later this week, but I am particularly looking forward to a case study in which a real estate developer sent a series of eight dimensional mailings to real estate brokers, culminating in (I kid you not) a Motorola cell phone with the developer’s phone number pre-programmed. (What I wouldn’t give for a budget like that.) There’s also a timely article on legislative proposals to institute a “do not mail” list alone the lines of the national “do not call” registry. Interesting stuff.Deliver Magazine

Here’s what disappoints me, however. I’m not in the magazine publishing business, but even as a relative layman, the magazine is a marketing disaster. Let me count the ways.

I don’t know why I received it. I don’t know why I should read it. I don’t know what the publisher wants me to do with it. I don’t know if this is the first issue of many that will grace my office mailbox, or the last.

Would a simple, saddle-stitched wraparound, or a cover letter inside a poly bag be too much to ask for? How about a dose of digital printing on the back cover:

Hi Howard,

As a direct marketing professional, we thought you’d enjoy this complimentary copy of “Deliver Magazine”, the flagship direct marketing publication of the United States Postal Service. This issue is completely free, but if you like what you read, you can subscribe online at www…

Nope. None of the above. In fact, there’s not one, single, identifiable call to action – the cornerstone of effective direct marketing – that accompanied the magazine. I don’t mind saying that my first instinct upon browsing the articles was: “Hey, I have some colleagues and clients who would enjoy this” but is there a bind-in or blow-in reply card that enables me to refer said colleagues? No siree. Nada.

As “a magazine for marketers” Deliver scores high for content, low for execution. Even the front cover (again – I’m just a reader, what do I know) is a masterpiece of form over function. If I wasn’t such a slave to my mailbox, I probably would have tossed it straight into the recycling bin. Issue highlights are presented in a gray font on an off-white background (strike one), ALL CAPS (strike two), and don’t do any justice to the content (yerrrr out). Consider this gem:


Huh? I looked in the table of contents for Jaffe’s byline, and discovered an enlightening, somewhat provocative essay on the value of “marketing conversation” – a process of building dialogue, and even disagreement, with your customers in forums such as blogs, podcasts, and Second Life. Where on earth do you get “doing for themselves”? Answer: you don’t. The cover blurb refers to Jaffe’s op-ed on Page 5, but that didn’t make the table of contents. Good grief.

The magazine says that US subscriptions are $3.95 per issue. Alas, the Website doesn’t even reference a price, or even that the magazine is complimentary (I assume it is, but then I haven’t filled out the subscription form yet, since I’m not sure if I’m a subscriber or not.)

But I recommend you subscribe anyway. Hey, it’s the Postal Service. At least they’re trying.

2 thoughts on “How Not to Market a Marketing Magazine

  1. 258marketing

    Interesting take on the magazine, Howard. Even the Postal Service needs to market..albeit sometimes poorly.

    I did get some value out of my issue in the article “Do Not Mail”…about the momentum that the registries are getting. States where DNM legislation is introduced include Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, and Washington.

    The USPS makes a lot of revenue each year with direct mail…and has a lot to lose if this legislation passes.

  2. Howard Sewell

    Thanks for the input. Again, to be clear – I think the content of the magazine is terrific, and like you, I agree: the “do not mail” article looks very interesting. I was just taken aback by the appalling lack of direct marketing principles displayed in what was (for me) essentially a piece of direct mail. I literally don’t know if I’m a subscriber or not! Coming from the USPS, I just think is a gross oversight.


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