Direct Mail Smackdown: The Magalog vs. the Oversize Envelope

Looking at recent publishing mail from The Who’s Mailing What! Archive, two very different efforts from Consumer Reports really jumped out at us. Both mail pieces have been in the mailstream for nearly three years, so both represent successful controls.

What makes them successful? And which is better?! Watch and listen to Peggy Hatch and Ethan Boldt compare and contrast the following:

  • One is a magalog and the other is an oversize envelope. Both use copy and images to grab the prospect’s attention in different ways.
  • One effort uses the involvement device of the “Free” sticker, along with an oversize reply form.
  • Both give you plenty of sizzle, but also please you with some steak (good content) — which one’s ‘steak’ works better?
  • One uses a more straightforward letter with the copy driver flattery on full display. Does it beat the other effort that doesn’t leverage a standard letter?
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  • magalogguy

    As far as which is best, we wouldn’t know without testing. But while I may be biased, I do lean toward a magalog for a couple of different reasons.

    First, a magalog doesn’t have to be opened the way an envelope does. It’s pretty simple to thumb through on a whim. If something catches your attention on one of the pages, you’ll stop and look at it. With something that comes in an envelope, a lot is riding on something on that envelope to make you take the extra step of opening it and pulling out all the pieces.

    Obviously mailers in envelopes work as history has shown. But I’m just talking about which of the two is easier to get into.

    And as someone who has to walk down the street to get to his mailbox, it’s easy for me to thumb through magazine style pieces as I walk back to the house. In other words, it has the more of a chance to grab my interest.

    Second, we’ve put up a lot of barriers when it comes to direct mail. The envelope package still looks like most "junk mail" we get although in this case, they did do a very nice job with the design.

    But the magalog is about the same size as magazines people subscribe to and look forward to receiving. There can often be less of that "junk mail" barrier when someone sees the magalog. Making your marketing material look like things you already enjoy receiving is a good consideration.

    Again, I’m not saying that a magalog is always the best option because it isn’t. (Price can be a factor, for one thing.) And testing is so important. But just based on the video and the arguments presented, I’d go with the magalog.