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3 Direct Mail Variants of the Traditional Envelope

January 30, 2013 By Paul Bobnak
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Editor's note: This excerpt comes from "Design & Formats for Boosting Direct Mail Response" and was contributed by our friends at Direct Marketing IQ. To download the full direct mail design report, Click Here.

In a mailbox that's a little less crowded than just a few years ago, there's still a daunting task at hand: How to stand out to the prospective customer or donor.

Even with a full battery of exciting tools at your disposal—like 4-color, variable data printing (VDP) or extra windows to tease the offer inside, just to name a few—the good ol' envelope is still just an envelope. That is, except when it isn't—and I'm not talking about a self-mailer.

Yes, you can still keep all of the elements of a tried-and-true direct mail envelope package that you know and love—letter, inserts, reply form and reply envelope—exactly the same. The difference is what you can use to hold them. Variations that do the same job as the traditional envelope have enjoyed some success, thanks to adventurous non-profit mailers.

Take the brown paper bag. Although it first appeared in the Who's Mailing What! Archive way back in 1988 (from Lycoming College), it really caught on in the first decade of the 21st century, with quite a few food banks and social service groups, like the New York City Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army. Usually measuring around 5˝ x 10˝, the bag first attracts attention precisely because of what it is: a flattened lunch bag with an address sticker on one side, tabs across the open end to seal in the typical inserts, and often, the letter printed on the opposite side.

What makes it so powerful as a format is that it can be easily tied in directly with the pitch of an organization. Philabundance's Grand Control (mailed for more than three years), for example, tells the potential contributor that "there are 900,000 people here in the Delaware Valley who don't have enough food to fill this lunch bag." And, the bag doesn't always have to be brown. Washington D.C.'s Whitman-Walker Clinic mailed an effort that helped illustrate its mission (providing medications to people living with HIV/AIDS). In this case, it was a white paper bag bearing an Rx symbol.

 
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