2 Big, Revitalized Opportunities on the Outer Envelope
Copy on the front of the envelope remains the tried-and-true method for most mailers to reach prospects. It's where you find teasers, offers, deadlines, personalized data, etc.—and these approaches run the gamut, from oversize formats with scarcely any copy/images to smaller efforts that are covered with copy and have full-bleed images.
But there are two tactics with regard to the outer envelope that marketers increasingly are exploring: the big window that showcases something inside the envelope and the back of the envelope. Here's a look into those two areas and how they work as opportunities to reach prospects.
1. The Back of the Envelope: The New Frontier for Mailers?
"As outer envelope real estate becomes more valuable (because everything about direct mail is becoming costlier), the OE back gains more importance," declares Ruth K. Sheldon, a New York City-based copywriter.
Pat Friesen, a Mission, Kan.-based copywriter, agrees. She says that you only have about two to three seconds to capture the prospect's attention these days, so "the back of the envelope is every bit as important as the front."
Of course, before you plunge ahead and just plunk down copy, graphics or interactive devices on this unexplored territory, experienced copywriters ask that you think about what's appropriate for the audience and offer ... and then test it.
"If I'm already putting teaser copy on the front of the envelope, I'm much more inclined also to put something on the back ... because you never know which side of the envelope will be face up when the recipient pulls it out of the mail," explains Friesen.
But proceed cautiously, says Herschell Gordon Lewis, a copywriter based in Pompano Beach, Fla. "If the wording hammers timeliness, copy on the back of the envelope is valuable. If the wording is a continuation or variation of selling copy, it's a game of Russian roulette in which the very existence of a secondary pitch can damage response," he stresses.
In addition, according to Mark Everett Johnson, a copywriter based in Carlisle, Pa., copy on the back of the envelope is a dead giveaway that it's not personal mail. "I would not put anything on the back of the envelope without testing it," he reminds.
A recent example of this approach comes from a 6″x 11-1/2″effort for The History Channel Magazine, which kept the outer envelope's front spare to emphasize a personalized membership card peeking through a small window in the lower right and the History Channel logo in the corner card; the envelope's back trumpeted a scratch-off game inside that would tell the prospect which of the four premiums shown he was eligible to receive.
Another mailer taking this creative tact is the nonprofit World Vision, which splashes the front of its 6″x 9″outer with the copy "URGENT UPDATE," followed by a secondary message that the prospect's donation will be multiplied by 15 to provide even more relief to Sudanese refugees. Copy on the back of the envelope reinforces the message of urgency and also provides a URL to bypass the mailing contents and give online immediately—a gamble that could work in World Vision's favor or against it, thus the need for testing.
2. The Big Window: A "Sneak Peek" That Gets Envelopes Opened?
Two and even three windows are common on envelopes, but coming back into vogue is the oversize window that stretches across the entire front, or back, of an outer envelope. In fact, in the Who's Mailing What! Archive mailstream, it's been used recently by a wide range of mailers, including GEICO, KAEHALL Estate Planning Coordinates, Southwest Airlines and The Wilderness Society.
GEICO and KAEHALL showcase teasers as well as the prospect's name and address. The Wilderness Society shows another envelope inside the OE, which stresses the "contents: Petitions to Congress and the U.S. Forest Service prepared for Ms. Prospect's signature." And Southwest Airlines uses the big window on the back of the envelope to display a blue sky, jet, and "new arrival" road sign with the prospect's first name personalized and formed by clouds. Other efforts also have shown the first line in the letter, or even the Johnson box.
All represent another way to give the prospect a sneak peek of what's inside the envelope, says Friesen, and hopefully enough to convince them to open it. "This is the same idea behind making it look like there's a check in the envelope ... safety paper background behind the addressing with the words 'Pay to the order of' to entice people to open the envelope," she describes.
Again, this technique should be employed with caution. "Don't do it just because you can. People get excited about doing it and including it in their printing bids ... but they have no strategy behind the added cost. It's different. It's clever. But does it work?" asks Friesen, who says the nonstrategic use of unique windows in direct mail is easy to spot.