The dreaded letter matrix

Er... some mistake?

Whenever I’m writing a mailshot, whether it be for an email or for traditional paper-folding direct mail, I do try and remember that this is a personal one-to-one communication medium, delivered to the recipient’s own door or inbox. And I try my best to write with empathy for the recipient.

Of course, we are ‘targeting sectors’ according to a handful of vaguely known facts such as their buying habits or their tick box responses to past communications. This information is often recorded in one of the account man’s favourite tools – the dreaded letter matrix.

The matrix is given to a copywriter who then has to come up with 16 variants of the same letter, carefully  constructed to  make mileage from the fact that the recipient group 1 buys Dove soap on a Monday, lives in Barry and has two kids aged between 3 and 16, recipient group 2 hasn’t any kids but owns two home computers, and similar generally useless facts. This can not only make it difficult to maintain an empathetic tone. It can make you lose the will to live.

I have a Honda FR-V and Honda probably thought it was time I changed my car. So they wrote to me. And here’s an example of where the letter matrix went spectacularly wrong:

Introducing the new FR-V

As a Honda FR-V owner, you’re probably accustomed to six seat versatility, with quality and style. However, we’d like to introduce you to the Honda FR-V, a cleverly versatile family car with quality and style.

They’ve tried to cross-sell me a car I already own. Which they acknowledge they already know about.  No copywriter wrote those two sentences as a pair. They were pieced together by a computer according to the wonderful letter matrix.

Needless to say, this doesn’t do much to maintain that one-to-one affinity which DM is supposed to be about.

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