Category Archives: Hall of Shame

Conformer Hall of Shame #13: Bubble Mailer Failure (Great Video!)

Microsoft ran a viral campaign years ago which recently resurfaced on YouTube.  Its intention, I think, was to persuade the public to abandon paper altogether.  Alas, paper usage has outlasted their campaign.

This hilarious video did succeed in brilliantly illustrating how awkward the bubble mailer can be, and questions why we put up with it. I mean, it’s not even recyclable. The truth is, we still live in a paper-bound environment. That means making better choices: using products that work better, look better, and are more environmentally friendly. (Sorry bubble mailer, you fail on all three.)

Many thanks to one of our favorite Conformer fans who brought this great video to our attention this morning:  “I saw this (video) and thought of you and your blog. If they had been using Conformer mailers, this wouldn’t have been a problem,”  said Nicole R. Benner | Client Events Manager | Blank Rome LLP.

-Sari McConnell at


Jon Stewart Goes Bananas on Packaging

Del Monte's Single-Serve Banana in Plastic

Did anybody catch Jon Stewart’s latest inductee to the Pantry of Shame on “The Daily Show” last night?

The Del Monte  Single-Serve Banana, an individual banana (wait for it…) wrapped in plastic.

As you know, we’re big fans of “right packaging,” not overpackaging.  And the banana is Mother Nature’s best example of right packaging: biodegradable, durable, conforms to fit contents perfectly.

“So what function,” as Jon Stewart nails it home, “does the bag serve that the peel does not currently serve?  A product for people who love bananas but hate their biodegradability?”

Jon Stewart challenges us to think differently about the status quo in politics and media coverage five days a week.  Our hats are off to Mr. Stewart today for challenging America to think differently about its packaging choices, too.

Click here to see Jon Stewart go bananas over packaging.

And we’ve got a few ideas of our own.  See our 6 Tips to Avoid Overpackaging.

Sari McConnell at

Hall of Shame #12: Envelope Kills Oscar Moment

Did anybody else see how much the presenters at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards were struggling to open the envelopes with the Oscar winners’ names last night?  It wasn’t nerves and shaky fingers.  It was a poor choice of envelope.  This made it tricky for presenters to extract the greatly anticipated card  (and get those cards in there to begin with).

There’s Nicole Kidman’s awkward “I can’t get it out” moment before announcing the winner of Best Original Score, while Hugh Jackman giggled alongside her.

Or Amy Adams‘s grimace and her “Oh, wow?!” to Jake Gyllenhaal as she struggled to pull the card out of the envelope and announce “Strangers No More” as an Oscar winner.

Click here to see Steven Spielberg — no stranger to the Oscar stage — struggle to get the card out of his envelope. At least he was smooth enough not to fill dead air time with a disparaging envelope remark.  Helen Mirren compensated by pinching the bottom of the envelope while pulling the card out; Reese Witherspoon held the envelope upside down and let gravity help her get the card.   (She must have practiced that in advance.)

The Great Envelope Blooper created pauses in the show’s programming far less endearing than the witty “You know…” tangents made by octogenarian Kirk Douglas as he presented the Best Supporting Actress award. (And he tossed the envelope to the ground by the way.)

The show’s producers obviously don’t know much about selecting a well-fitted envelope.  You start with the contents – the card itself – and determine its length, width, and thickness.  Thickness is always the wild card because, if you don’t choose an envelope construction that can conform to varying thicknesses, it can jam up the entire envelope as you saw last night at the Oscars.  This damages the card and the envelope.

But the dresses were nice…

Sari McConnell at

Hall of Fame #2: Oscar Envelope Praised by Tom Hanks

Despite my criticism of the official 83rd annual Academy Awards ill-fitted envelope (Hall of Shame #12), I would be remiss if I didn’t call attention to Tom Hanks’s envelope comment at the top of the Oscars show.

“These envelopes are works of art themselves,” said Hanks before awarding Wally Pfister with the Best Cinematography award.

No wonder he’s known as Hollywood’s Nicest Guy.

The envelope was characteristically Oscar gold, embossed with a beaux arts pattern and a faux wax seal closure.  It was fancy, just like all those dresses on the red carpet.  What the Oscar producers don’t know about proper envelope construction, they do know about branding.   They recognize that the envelope is one of the biggest elements of anticipation and dare I say, drama of the Academy Awards:  “And the winner is…. (Envelope)!”

So I’d like to thank Tom Hanks and the Academy for letting the world know the importance of a good envelope.  And we’d be happy to do a consult next year so that their envelope works as good as it looks.

Sari McConnell at

Hall of Shame #11: Reach Out and Touch Someone

I have been a loyal AT&T Wireless customer since 1996, long before mobile phones were not the mandatory business tools they are today.  I have watched the Company re-brand itself more times than Madonna.  Ah the memorable slogans – More bars in more places, Your World. Delivered, and their latest, Rethink Possible. The Company spends billions on fancy marketing campaigns to remind you that they have a great product and terrific service.

I had a recent episode with AT&T that left me scratching my head.  My Blackberry Bold 9000 was overheating and killing the battery.  After 2+ hours of pulling the battery, re-booting, updating and re-installing, tech support  “granted” me a new battery.

I thought this would be a great opportunity for the smart marketers at AT&T Wireless to do some damage control and rebuild my confidence in their service.  Instead, AT&T determined it was in their better interests to use free packaging from FedEx.

AT&T Marketing

Unexpected delivery from FedEx. Must be important.

Tiny battery, BIG landfill packaging
Tiny battery, BIG landfill packaging

This package lands in our Conformer Hall of Shame for a number of infractions –

1 – AT&T totally blew a great chance to Reach out and touch someone. They had a great branding opportunity but opted to cut corners and promote the brand of FedEx instead of their own.

2 – Not only does AT&T not care about their branding, they don’t care about the environment.  The FedEx Padded Pak is both grossly over-sized and is not recyclable.  Does a battery really require bubble padding?  I wouldn’t think so.

3 – AT&T is paying double what they should be to ship this package.  I did a quick price check.  FedEx Express Saver, delivered in 2 – 3 days costs roughly $11, though I am sure they have a lower negotiated rate.  Had AT&T used USPS Priority Mail, they could have used a recyclable, AT&T branded Conformer Paperboard Mailer made from post consumer content, and paid $5.35.

It’s time for AT&T marketing to Rethink Possible. With the $5.65 they could have saved in postage, AT&T could buy some pretty snappy eco-conscious, brand enforcing packaging.

-Bob Makofsky at

Hall of Shame #10: The Story He’s Telling

Side view of inappropriately-used USPS Priority Mailer

So I’ve been psychoanalyzing our packaging choices, and what they say about us and our brand to the customer.  If you’ve read Inconvenient Truth: When a (Visual) Story > 1000 Words, you’re probably already in agreement that this package (see photo) has a very sad story to tell, and whatever message this Amazon reseller was trying to send me — customer loyalty, trust, good judgment — just got flushed down the toilet because of a poor packaging choice.

This vendor is taking the chance that a) this package will arrive alive and b) that I’ll be too lazy to return or complain about it if it doesn’t.  The only thing this company has going for it is that I can’t remember its name since the package has no discernible brand marking on it… All I see is USPS (which has enough baggage as it is).

Everything your customer receives from you tells a story, whether you like it or not.  Don’t let your mailroom or your fulfillment company determine whether or not it’s a good one.

-Sari McConnell at

Inconvenient Truth: When A (Visual) Story > 1000 Words

One of the best speakers I’ve heard in a long time, Nancy Duarte of Duarte Design, spoke about the power of storytelling to my beloved Watermark networking group.  Nancy is best known for creating Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth “slideshow,” so she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to telling stories.

slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations

Slide:ology:Looks Like It Tells a Good Story

At the cornerstone of her storytelling philosophy is the emotional connection.  “Rather than a name or logo, or tagline that reflects what a company thinks of itself, brand is what a company stands for in the hearts and minds of its customers; to be successful, the company must have an emotional connection with the consumer,” says Nancy Duarte in her book Slide:ology.

Duarte’s expertise revolves around Powerpoint, of course, but you can extend this exact principle in a number of directions.  Take Sunrise Packaging.  They make a compelling case for product package design to tell a story to the consumer.  Think about it… What really tells the story in most consumer packaged goods?  The junk in the bottle, or the look, feel and voice of the bottle?

And then there is my Conformer world, and I wonder why the mail packaging world gets delegated to the mail room or fulfillment house decision makers instead of being viewed as the very first opportunity to make that emotional connection with the recipient.  We know departments and agencies full of people creating sales kits, media kits, sample kits, not to mention e-commerce sites fiercely competing for loyalty, and yet the package that all that STUFF goes into looks miserable, beaten up and just sad.

Read more about a pathetic package in Hall of Shame #10: The Story You’re Telling.  It tells a very sad story,  and its sender may not realize that the story ends badly… for him.

-Sari McConnell at