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.
7. Back flap: Use the back flap for your return address or call to action. Add a zip-strip involvement device with a call-to-action.
8. Non-addressing side: OEs have two sides and you never know which side will be seen first. Consider including an offer, teaser, or faux rubber stamped message of DO NOT DISCARD or DO NOT BEND on the back.
9. Window vs. closed face: Traditionally, window envelopes were used for business mail while closed face envelopes were thought to look more personal, more private. But this trend is changing. Window envelopes can provide a peek of your envelope's contents — no matter what you're selling. They can also reduce addressing costs. Test both to see which works best for your bottom line.
10. Hot spots: Every OE has hot spots where the eye goes first. Some are innate — corner card, addressing, postage. Others are created by writers and designers — teaser copy, involvement devices, graphics. They work together to manage eye flow while keeping your mail piece out of the trash and in the hands of your reader. Maximize the impact of your hot spots.
11. Corner card/return address: A powerful piece of real estate, the corner card is that relatively small area in the upper left corner of an OE. It's one of the places the screener's eye goes first while deciding whether or not to keep your mail piece. That's because it reveals who sent the mailing. Treat it as an important strategic element.
12. Involvement devices: Zip strips, peel-off stickers, die-cuts, unusual windows, and repositionable notes are just a few of the devices designers use to create intrigue and involvement. They encourage people to peel, pull and peek inside your OE.
13. Postage: Postage doesn't have to be boring. Think of it as another hot spot that generates reader interest. Test live stamps. Create a custom indicia. Make it a strategic element of your OE. Because postage plays such an important role in mail screening, don't leave decisions about its appearance to a letter shop or production manager.
One final note: Reply envelopes also play an important role in creating effective direct mail packages. Elements to consider include size, color, pre-filling the return address, providing deadline reminders, and using brand reinforcing graphics. And test including a postage-paid vs. a courtesy reply envelope. You may be surprised by the results.
Pat Friesen writes for direct mail, email, blogs, catalogs, the Web, and other direct response media. She's also a sought-after copy coach, workshop presenter and columnist for Target Marketing magazine. Contact Pat at (913) 341-1211 and email@example.com.