3 Direct Mail Variants of the Traditional Envelope

The brown paper bag as envelope has worked so well for the charity Philadundance that it’s been mailing for over three years now.

Witness the mighty “brochurelope,” which a few nonprofits and museums are using in the mail right now. Even the Obama 2012 campaign employed it early in the year.

The campaign “brochurelope” folds open to display its message.

Vocus seizes attention with the invitational-style, personalized outer envelope.

The interior of the Vocus self-mailer operates well to gather leads, as the reply card is more prominent than in most efforts.

But let’s face it, the immediate visual appeal of this mailers also limits its applicability to most organizations. No worries: two other formats have also popped up in the mailstream in recent years that should have wider appeal.

One is a poster outer, a thicker, coated stock paper usually folded into thirds, and the ends spot-glued or wafer-sealed shut. It mails with dimensions of, say, 6˝ x 11˝, but measures 6˝ x 17˝ when fully opened. Greenpeace and Amnesty International, for example, have used this format to mail appeals that could have been dispatched in standardsized envelopes. After all, the enclosed materials (letter, reply form, etc.) were nothing out of the ordinary. But the additional advantage is the inside of the outer. Like a calendar or bumper sticker, when displayed, the single picture or sign is a terrific, visible way to advocate for a cause.

Another envelope variation, called the PlyPak by one manufacturer, has been dubbed the “brochurelope” because it cleverly uses all of its interior real estate to take the place of brochures and buck slips in the direct mail package. Measuring a little larger than a standard #10, this format employs a thicker stock paper with 4-color bleeds right to the edge. Its panels are spot-glued; pull them apart from each other, and they open up like petals on a flower. Sitting atop the middle panel is the letter and reply envelope, as well as other components. It’s a compelling package that, in the hands of the right designer, copywriter, and project manager, can wow a large variety of audiences.

Yet another nice play on the envelope is seen from Vocus, which markets its PR software in an invitational-style self-mailer that folds open, and then the reply card hinges open to the side and makes it very easy to respond for the B-to-B prospect.

Paul Bobnak is the director of Who's Mailing What!, the most complete, searchable and fully online library of direct mail and email in the world. He has read and analyzed thousands of direct mail packages (offers, copy, designs, incentives and formats) and email in more than 200 industry categories, including nonprofits, retail, insurance, telecom, B-to-B, financial services and publishing. He writes for the e-newsletter Today @ Target Marketing and has been a judge in NonProfit PRO's Gold Awards for Fundraising Excellence since 2006.
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  • Cheryl Keedy

    You do know the USPS put the kibosh on the bag mailer as shown in your example. I guess because it has been so popular and successful with so many groups – it came under extra scrutiny the by the USPS Even with all the tabs etc it will no longer qualify to mail at letter rates. The alternative morphed version as suggested by the USPS – is a sleeve and hardly conveys the same impact. Sorry – I liked it too.

  • Vocus

    Thanks for the shout in your post Paul – it made us smile to see that you liked our direct mail. Our marketing team appreciates it!