Archive Observations: A Political Battle Royale

Remember that nice, post-Inauguration glow? Well, it was nice while it lasted; it was back to politics as usual in July’s mailstream. The centerpoint of efforts by both main U.S. political parties is, of course, President Barack Obama and his administration’s agenda.

After a few months of pondering their next moves, some Republican bodies opted on a strategy of being anti-Obama. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (Archive code #608-173369-0907A) mailed an “Official Document” in a #10 OSE, a “Stop Obama Survey”, with the typical no-gray-area answers. The Republican State Leadership Committee (Archive code #608-717766-0907) mailed a survey along the same lines, but with perhaps, a more apt question in large red type on the front of the #14 envelope: “What is wrong with the Republican Party?”

For their part, Democrats went to old firebrands to rally the party faithful. James Carville, for example, writing in a membership renewal for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (Archive code #608-171855-0907B), presented the choice between the two parties Congressional bickering as a simple matter of the difference between “YES We Can” and “The Party of NO.” Helpfully, those slogans were also put on reply stickers showing through the front of the campaign’s double-window #11 envelope.

As the debate over health care reform and other issues intensifies, there will undoubtedly be more of the same showing up in the mail, so hang in there. After all, the 2010 mid-term elections are only 13 months away.

Five mailings became Grand Controls (controls in the mail for three or more years) in July, and together, with new discoveries in our files, brought the Archive’s grand total to (drumroll, please)1,069. The latest inductees include: Heart Support of America (Archive code #604-301486-0907), Bankers Life & Casualty (Archive code #440-171708-0907), Advanced Financial Services (Archive code #535-174023-0907) and Omaha Steaks (Archive code #355-171626-0907A).

Over the years, I’ve seen Grand Controls with remarkable staying power. Looking at July’s mail, for example, the Arbor Day Foundation’s (Archive code #603-172991-0907) member renewal follow-up has only seen minor tweaks since its first appearance in our office in January 1999. The “10 free trees” premium, the letter and eye-catching green OSE remain virtually the same.

But some mailings, like the “EMERGENCY” membership effort by World Wildlife Fund (Archive code #610-171878-0907A), are updated in a more substantial way, while still retaining the heart of the offer. The four-page letter opens with a stark warning: “Without firing a shot, we may kill one-fifth of all species of life on this planet in the next 20 years.” Using lots of powerful red-underlined copy to emphasize the crisis, the prospect is recruited to be part of the solution (“we have a plan for survival”). A buckslip lists some earth-friendly lifestyle choices for the prospect to try. Trust is further built by a list of WWF’s successes found on the back of the package’s freemium, an animal sticker sheet.

The original versions of the mailing, mailed beginning in the late 1990s, offered a panda umbrella as the membership or renewal premium. Although the panda remains a central part of the organization’s logo and brand identity, other products have been tried, including a hat, thermos and tote bag. The July campaign, in the mail since at least February 2006, incentivizes with a Blue-Footed Booby plush. Aside from the photo on the front of the #10 outer, and a writeup on the buckslip inside, there’s no other mention of the bird or how it relates to the organization’s mission. But it’s not really necessary—it’s an unusual enough premium that it gets the envelope opened and the prospect focused on that 10-years-and-counting letter.