Have you watched Knock Down the House yet? You should. It’s a testament to the strength and badassery of women in this country. Many parts made me cry and feel inspired, but one part in particular really tickled me.

Direct Mail Lessons

At 47:20 into the documentary, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez starts comparing her mailers to her opponent’s—Joe Crowley. I noticed. And I’m not the only one who noticed. This review of the film says, “In a memorable scene, Ocasio-Cortez picks apart her opponent Joe Crowley’s mailer. The flyer, which the powerful Democrat sent out to voters, mentions ‘Trump three times, commitments zero times.’ Ocasio-Cortez notes that the mailer illustrates Crowley’s ‘insider’ status, favoring empty rhetoric over actionables.” 

My jaw dropped as I excitedly said aloud, “AOC really knows her direct mail!” 

Which, hold up, let’s back up. I’m not sure what happened to me—I’m geeking out about direct mail. Before coming to work at Hacker, I was at a branding agency where I hardly touched or thought about direct mail. But in my year and a half at Hacker, I am a huge advocate for direct mail. And for good reason.  

In a January 2019 study by Valassis, the importance of direct mail stood out. 

“According to a survey of value-seeking consumers, nearly three-quarters said seeing an offer in both print and online captures their attention, emphasizing the importance of having an integrated approach to media.” 

Integrated, right? And before you dismiss your audiences’ mailbox, take a look at this stat from the same report. 

In an ongoing study fielded in conjunction with The NPD Group, Inc., when asked how often they read or looked at advertisements that come in the mail, 69 percent of respondents said “always or most of the time,” with another 25 percent saying “sometimes.” 

69–94% open rate? Wow. That is performance. Direct mail for the win. But what makes for good direct mail? I know. And AOC knows, too. 

Back in the documentary (the 47:20 mark again, if you’re looking to follow along), Ocasio-Cortez pulls out her opponent’s mailer.  

“So look at this thing.” 

She holds up Crowley’s multi-page, large booklet.  

“Everybody in the district got this Victoria’s Secret catalogue of my opponent.” 

She reaches out to her own mailer and says, “Now I’m not trying to gas myself up or anything, but this is the difference between an organizer and a strategist. What am I trying to get people to do? Two things: I want them to know my name. And I want them to vote.” 

She goes on to show that the back of her mailer clearly lays out why you would vote for her—what issues she cares about and what she wants to change. (And she doesn’t point it out, but I can’t help but notice her mailer is bilingual.) 

AOC then holds up Crowley’s booklet again.  

“Where’s the primary date on this? When you first see it—when you first pull it out of your mailbox?” 

She goes on to mock herself a bit, saying, “Alex, you’re being too harsh. You’re being way too harsh, give him a chance. Okay, let’s give him a chance. Let’s open it up.” 

She opens it up. 

“Okay, we’ve got this big, beautiful spread here. WHERE’S THE PRIMARY DATE?” 

Spoiler: It’s nowhere. This woman knows how direct marketing works and the power of a call to action.  

Ocasio-Cortez goes on about the flaws in Crowley’s direct mailer and I continued to delight in seeing the work we do every day at work. If you’re serious about ROI (as we at Hacker always are), then you’ll make sure every piece of your campaign is working as hard as it can. Want someone to vote for you in the primary? Put that primary date on your direct mailer—put it on there a few times, in fact. Success is in the details. 

AOC went on to beat Crowley in a historic election. Of course there were many other reasons beyond her mailer that made her triumphant, but all I’m saying is: that hard-working direct mail helped.