Direct Marketing Clinic: Chase Mailer Pros & Cons, Tips & Tricks

This case study dissects a folding, four-panel direct mail piece promoting Chase savings accounts — the offer, the design, and a clever coupon trick.

By Joe Swatek and Steve Bieber, ACTON Marketing

In October 2012, Chase Bank used a folding, four-panel self-mailer to promote its savings accounts using a $150 cash offer as the main hook. Let’s examine how the mail piece is put together so you can see how you might improve your own direct mail marketing. The folded, finished size is approximately 6 x 9 inches. Here’s what the complete mailer looked like :

Outer Cover Panel: Big Photo, Big Offer

Let’s start with the colorful outside cover panel.

Two points on the cover catch the reader’s eye: the cash amount and the photo.

1 – Big Offer. The large $150 amount is the most likely reason the mail recipient will consider opening and reading the offer. Here it’s prominent, as it should be.

2 – Engaging Image. Good use of a people photo. We’re all attracted to photos of people. In this case, the more mature couple in the photo reflects the readers whom this promotion targets.

Choose photos that appeal to women prospects. Women open or influence the opening of 89% of all financial accounts. Marketing to women techniques, like this photo, are important for financial promotions.

3 – Strong Teaser. Good teaser copy makes the prospect curious as to what part of this offer is better than the $150, and further encourages people to open the mailer.

Address Panel: Strengthen Presentation of Offer Summary

Quite often we see address panels with little or no design elements. We suspect designers see this as the post office’s area and they’d rather not mess with it. But this side appears face-up in the mailbox and is the first side the mail recipient sees. It’s crucial to get it right.

1 – Open Invitation. The mail is addressed to “Our Neighbor” versus an actual name, which means recent movers (some of the best prospects for switching or opening new accounts) can take advantage of this offer.

2 – Design Tip: Emphasize Offer. Here’s the teaser, but the mailer could be improved with a larger headline, larger size dollar amount, and a photo or graphic that would attract attention as the mail is pulled from the box or sorted on the kitchen table.

Inside Left Panel: Clever Coupon

This panel uses an involvement device — seldom seen with financial promotions, but a very effective technique: a removable coupon (the area enclosed in blue below, approximately 4.25 x 7.5 inches). Direct mail tricks like this typically boost response because the recipient becomes engaged, and spends more time examining the offer. With direct marketing, the more readers engage with a piece, the more likely they are to take action.

Details of how to redeem the offer are shown in four simple steps. Simple, concise, is always best when giving the details and redemption information. It’s like a cheat sheet or guide for the prospect. Showing the nearest branch location promotes the convenience factor and makes the reader think more about the offer.

Probably the best feature of the entire mail piece and the factor that makes the coupon ideal: it covers up all the disclaimer copy. Fine print is revealed only when the coupon device is lifted off the page.

Instructions for branch personnel are printed on the back of the coupon, so it’s hidden from view and makes the mail piece appear easier to read. And talk about a promotion that’s easy to implement operationally — putting the promotion’s internal instructions for staff is brilliant.

Inside Right Panel: The “Best” Part?

Here’s where you find the sales pitch and product information.

1 – Limp “Bonus.” The reader might argue the “best” part of the offer is the $150 bonus. That’s the disadvantage of making good/better/ best comparisons of your own offer.

2 – People Photo. Good use of a photo. Looks like a “real” person making eye contact with the reader, and not a fashion model.

3 – Personal Banker. Bankers assume a personal banker is a great advantage to a prospect (and a cross-selling advantage to the bank), but not all consumers want that sort of help. They simply want things to run smoothly so they don’t need extra help. However, because of the upper income class this is intended to attract, that may be less of a negative factor.

The copywriter for this project might feel handicapped by the limitation of a single panel for the bulk of the copy. A prospect might see the panel as “too much” copy. But if by now the teasers and other techniques have worked, the prospect will be drawn into reading the details.

4 – Call-to-Action. This subhead includes the final, necessary call-to-action. That’s good, but wait…

5 – Complex Chart. This final series of questions looks squeezed-in, with its smaller font size. The offer appeals to a more mature group, many of whom are forced to use reading glasses. While the chart format adds another visual effect to the mailer, the (unanswered) questions (instead of information) it includes might be unnecessary and the space could be better used to spread out the sales copy.

Bottom Line

The Chase self-mailer savings account promotion has two very effective panels and two that could be improved. Overall, the $150 cash bonus is certainly eye-catching enough to get prospects inside the mailer where they examine the details. The offer and photos make it appear this promotion targets Boomer generation affluent households. Now you can use the pros and cons discussed here to judge the effectiveness of your direct mail campaigns.

Joe Swatek is Senior Copywriter, and Steve Bieber is Creative Director at ACTON Marketing. In their twenty years as a team, they’ve worked with hundreds of financial institutions on direct marketing promotions. They blog at Financial Marketing Insights. ACTON Marketing is a full-service direct marketing organization that provides complete direct mail marketing programs and strategies to financial institutions nationwide. Their work includes complete creative, production, staff training, and consultation.

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  1. Thanks for the great dissection. Your point about the hidden branch instructions is a good idea. Most of the Citi offers I get do the same thing. I find the use of traditional direct marketing techniques (you called tricks) refreshing. They have worked for decades and still work today.


  2. Do you think the “Our Neighbor” salutation is as responsive as using the actual appropriate decision maker’s name?

  3. In the case of the CHASE mailer above, the offer is not pre-approved or otherwise exclusive to any one person, so the “Our Neighbor” salutation is a better way to address the piece.

    Lists are never perfect. By using “Our Neighbor” you need not worry about misspelling a name, and you also ensure that the mailer gets delivered even if the intended recipient has moved.

    You want to be as inclusive as possible with your offers.

  4. As a copywriter for a large number of financial institution clients, I run into dictates from compliance people all the time. Because we have our own corporate legal counsel review our general copy and creative policies, I’m confident my copy will pass the test of any industry regulatory group. It’s frustrating, then, when a client’s compliance officer comes up with some other interpretation of a rule. And really, that’s all it is. An interpretation. I’ve seen them go so far as to dictate where obscure commas should be placed.

    While I stand by our creative, often the marketers at the clients’ offices are afraid to stand up to the compliance people. I suggest any marketing professional should ask the executives to back them on any position against truly ridiculous compliance directives. Collect samples of other promotions that back up your assumption. After all, those printed materials passed by some other compliance officer. You can bet the Chase Bank compliance department okayed the idea of placing disclaimers behind the coupon. Our corporate legal counsel will take time to help to our clients when a sticky issue comes up. If you have access to outside opinions, take advantage of them.

  5. This brings up a great discussion point for agency and in-house folks regarding marcom in the new regulatory world. As a creative, I regard this as a wonderful example of tried-and-true approach to designing effective direct mail … as the in-house creative director for a regional community bank, virtually every feature of this piece would be shredded by my compliance officer as a UDAP violation. F’geddabout the no-no of “hiding” disclosures, our regulators have even challenged us on using the word “good” as vague and misleading. Would love to hear if anyone else is jumping these particular hurdles.

  6. That’s ridiculous, Christian. “Good” is a highly subjective adjective (your regulator used the less accurate term “vague” to describe this adjective’s subjectivity). Subjective language — also known as “opinion” — is free and protected speech in the U.S. Does the FDA shut down Taco Bell for calling their food “tasty?” No. A regulator is there to protect people from claims that are clearly, objectively misleading (like Taco Bell’s use of “beef” on non-beef products), not clamp down on any/all subjective, ambiguous marketing claims. Your regulator should be able to control how you use the word “free,” and what type-size disclosures appear. But who the heck are they to say whether your offer is “good” or not? That you have “great” rates or not?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Why don’t you give “your neighbors” a method to opt out of your direct mailings? I imagine the majority of the recipients who receive these lovely Chase offers are just like me and simply toss your mailings in the recycle bin where they belong.

    I know you banking types think you are doing the world a great favor with all these “amazing” offers to switch financial institutions, but personally, I think you are nothing more than scamming telemarketers who rely on the USPS people instead of ATT’s phones.

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