Tag Archives: hall of shame

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 smcconnell@conformerinc.com

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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 smcconnell@conformerinc.com

Hall of Shame #9: Bubble Mailers, a Slow Death

I think consumers are smart enough to recognize “greenwashing” when they see it.  Greenwashing, a term whose origin seems derived from “brainwashing,” is when a company spins its product in a way to position it as more eco-friendly than it actually is.  Keep that in mind as you read the following and decide for yourself whether or not you’re being “greenwashed.”

Ingredients of a Bubble Mailer

Can you read the ingredients list on the bubble mailer photo to my left? It says “100% Recycled Paper/10% Post-Consumer” and “10% Recycled Plastic.”  At first glance, the use of recycled material seems like a great thing, doesn’t it?

Let’s pull this product apart a little though, no pun intended.  A bubble mailer is a kraft-like paper bag with plastic bubble material sealed to its interior.  [Did you know that this bubble material was invented in 1960? (See Wikipedia.)  Bubble material is a pretty ancient technology that was cutting edge in its heyday.  Remember the 1967 movie “The Graduate” when Mr. McGuire says “Plastics!“?]

In any case, everybody knows you need to separate your recyclables — paper goes with paper, plastic goes with plastic- so that these materials can be recycled and made into something new.  In a traditional bubble mailer, these two media are sealed together and it is difficult to impossible to separate them.  So even though the product may be made of recycled material, the bubble mailer cannot be recycled.  To the landfill it goes, where it will sit for hundreds of years, just like a baby’s diaper.  

My attempt at separating a bubble mailer

Clearly this bubble mailer’s manufacturer is attempting to put more recycled content into its product so that’s good.  But at the end of the day, the end result is a product headed straight for the landfill, and that’s bad.  So tell me, readers, do you think this bubble mailer should be in Conformer’s Hall of Shame?
-Sari McConnell at smcconnell@conformerinc.com