Ted Cruz’s direct mail isn’t honest. And neither is anybody else’s.
“Dear Friend” will almost certainly appear at the beginning of a direct mail letter you receive today. It’s a lie. The writer of this letter is not your friend. He or she has not met and probably will never meet you. Moreover, the writer is almost certainly not the person whose signature you will see at the bottom. I should know. I have been actually writing such letters for more than 30 years.
I have nothing to do with Ted Cruz’s campaign mail, or with that of any other politician in this election cycle. I haven’t done candidate or campaign mail for some time. But I’ve done enough of it to know that the techniques Cruz’s direct mail consultants are using aren’t even slightly out of the ordinary. Nor are they more or less honest than the mail being done for Jeb!, Marco, Hillary, Bernie, etc.
It’s All About Attention
Direct mail is a necessity in modern campaigns. Despite the Internet, direct mail remains one of the most efficient ways to acquire donors and solicit future gifts from the donors. Direct mail is always a contest to be noticed in a crowded mailbox on a busy day. Practitioners know that something like 98 percent of people on average will not respond to an initial appeal for funds. The response they get from often less than 2 people out of a hundred fuels the whole process. So, yes, direct mailers get a little desperate to get their letters opened and read.
“You May Have Already Won.” “Free Gift Enclosed.” “[Insert your town] area campaign.” “Notice of Termination.” “Reserved in Your Name.” “Exclusive Offer.”
None of these often-seen statements are true by any real-world standard. Instead, they are part of a kind of “direct mail truth” that allows strangers to communicate with you as if they have intimate knowledge of your life, as if they were writing to you personally and dropping letters off in the local box just as they do for their favorite aunt.
The Republican National Committee, for example, has for more than a decade been mailing an appeal loudly claiming to be for the benefit of the “Fairfax (or wherever you live) area campaign GOP.” This “localization tactic” is misleading, because the donations go directly to party headquarters in Washington—which, to my knowledge, has no staff dedicated to carefully rerouting money back to towns across America.
It’s not just the language. Every aspect of direct mail—particularly direct mail for fundraising—is aimed at maintaining a carefully constructed charade of being a personal letter from a single individual. Letters inside envelopes are much more expensive to produce than self-mailing brochures. But inside envelopes are how individuals send letters (or at least used to) to other individuals. It’s so much easier and cheaper to meter the postage on the envelope. But you still see real stamps because that’s how real people mail letters. (The stamps are affixed by a machine, by the way.)
Shocker: Ted Cruz Is Trying to Raise Money!
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