12+ Tips for Creating Engaging Envelopes

For those of you who aren’t direct mail writers or designers, you may not realize the range of response-influencing decisions that go into creating effective envelopes — outer and reply envelopes.

If you’re an approving manager or someone who gives creative input, you need to understand how envelope copy and design work together to get mail pieces opened. Here are some 12 things to consider:

1. Size: Your OE (outer envelope) doesn’t have to be a standard size. While it may cost more in postage to mail a non-standard envelope, this could be your best investment for standing out in a stack of predictable #10s or 6″ x 9″s.

2. Shape: While the USPS prefers standard rectangular envelopes, a square or odd-shape may be just what it takes to reinforce your brand or offer message. Again, think of it as an investment. Check your mail and the Who’s Mailing What! Archive for examples of OE controls in non-standard shapes and sizes.

3. Color: If you’ve already got a winning control OE and you’re looking for a simple test to bump response, test color. Keep everything else about the mailing the same. If it’s white, make it blue. If it’s blue, test a color that reflects your brand. In the case of Southwest Rapid Rewards, you always know a mailing is from Southwest — no matter the size or shape — because of the bright yellow-gold color (see picture above).

4. Texture: Textured OEs have a tactile advantage because they both look and feel different. If you don’t have the budget for textured paper stock, use a varnish or printed faux finish.

5. Teaser: Like an email subject line, OE teaser copy is an enticement. Use it to dangle a major benefit, establish a deadline, or ask an intriguing question with the answer inside. Like ad headlines, teasers are something to test.

6. Variable data/personal relevancy:
You can now individualize outers with more than just name and address. Consider using variable data printing to customize both copy and images. This could include offers, deadlines, teasers and even images of products and people uniquely relevant to the recipient. Check with your vendors to see what’s available for both traditional and inline outers.

Pat Friesen is a direct response copywriter, content developer, copy coach and creative strategist. She is also the author of "The Cross-Channel Copywriting Handbook," published by Direct Marketing IQ. Reach her at (913) 341-1211.

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  • Dave

    How about adding a QR code to the envelope? See how one company did it, and some thoughts on how to do it better: