UK government agency:

mail screening

Stay alert Screen the mail Save lives

The behaviour

One of our clients is a UK government agency, and one of their responsibilities is to keep themselves, and other parts of the civil service safe from harm.

Trouble is, everyday government agencies and employees get sent all kinds of things in the mail. As you can imagine most of those packages are lovely, useful, and helpful.

But some of them are a bit more… Lethal.

Thankfully that kind of mail is quite rare, but it does come in. And it means the mail handlers and other staff who sift through the hundreds of letters that arrive each day have to maintain extraordinarily high levels of concentration every time the post arrives. After all, miss just one dodgy package and it could be ‘Guy Fawkes eat your heart out’ time.

The big question

How could we make sure the risk of dangerous packages stayed top-of-mind so the post team never let a bad parcel slip through the net?

A selection of design materials we delivered

What we did

We tend to think of plane travel as being quite dangerous because pretty much every air disaster is reported in the news. The images of those disasters each get etched into our minds.
But the truth is more than 200,000 flights take off and land every day, and the amount of plane crashes we see is about 0.18 per million.

The risk is tiny, in other words. And yet we feel it isn’t.

For this government agency and their stakeholders, we needed to get people thinking about mail risks just as disproportionately so everyone would stay on constant high-alert for suspicious packages.

So we reminded them of those risks. A lot.

Avoid, avert, alert! The key was to make the idea of a dangerous package easier to recall.

Step by step guides in an engaging infographic format

Poster with powerful design and easy to remember messaging

We created:

  • Posters in the post rooms
  • Presentations in the boardrooms
  • Screensavers on every computer
  • Workshops with every staff member
  • Emails out to everyone
  • Guides that left out no-one
  • And a whole series of true stories to bring the risks to life.

About the design

The design brief was to avoid ‘corporate’ bland stock imagery and create something that will get people’s attention. So while listening to ‘Wait a minute Mr Postman‘ tunes in the studio, we got inspired to create a vintage look & feel with a striking 21st-century twist. The visual language was a combination of a bold colour palette with a dominant red to signify alert, with vintage style of illustrations to bring interest to the composition, and typography that resembles ‘ransom notes’ to signify an association with danger.

A selection of designs we produced

Why it worked

Availability bias

Because every plane crash is vividly reported, the danger of air travel is much more mentally ‘available’ for us, and it makes us think that planes are the more dangerous than car travel. But statistically, that’s just not the case.

We used the same principle here. By surrounding people with the possibility of suspicious packages, it meant every time someone came across mail that seemed even slightly out of the ordinary, they would recall the campaign and be hyper-vigilant to the risks.

Fluency shortcuts and the rhyme-as-reason effect

They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. For years people have believed that, but by now we all know that doesn’t mean you can just smoke 60-a-day, have an apple and get away scot-free. Yet that was the accepted wisdom for generations.

We used the same technique here with Avoid, Avert, Alert. This simple, rhyming, mantra meant its message was easy to understand, easy to internalise, and easy to recall and act on when it came to the crunch.


Our behaviour is most affected by what our attention is drawn to – and we had to attract attention here or a dangerous package might slip through the net.

It’s why we used huge poster campaigns filled with bright red colours, dramatic and vibrant imagery, and simple block-capital text to hammer the message home.

The results

“The Spoon team produced a comprehensive campaign for us, including informative and striking guidance products which have received much positive feedback. The team were very flexible and receptive to our comments throughout the process, and ensured we received the highest quality products which fully met our original needs. We really appreciate the team’s hard work and effort.”

– Our client, UK Government Agency

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