3 Trends in Direct Mail Design
Given the continuing uncertainty over the future of how the USPS conducts its operations, it may seem a little counterintuitive to see bright days ahead for direct mail. But the development of some recent creative trends, as evidenced by mail cataloged in Who’s Mailing What! (the most extensive database of direct mail and email in the world), shows this is a medium that is alive and quite capable of learning new tricks.
1. Full-Color Envelopes
Take the usage of four-color. It’s an approach that’s been on an upswing for several years, as technological advances in the printing process make it more affordable than ever before, regardless of run size. In most major categories, bland black-and-white is slowly giving way to illustrations and photographs that appear more professional and aesthetically pleasing than was possible just a few years ago.
The change is most evident on envelopes, where color is increasingly full-bleed to the edge, and often on both sides. When combined with engaging teaser copy, this mail really stands out and screams to be opened, even in a mailbox that’s a little less crowded than before the Great Recession.
2. Icon Graphics
Another design trend across all sectors of mail is the deployment of icons. Especially for a younger audience, the use of graphics that mimic those from their screens of choice (desktop, tablet or mobile) is a natural and welcome development. For the most part, they’re deployed for the same reason they are online: to prompt action.
For many mailers, icons have become an important part of every reply form and call to action, prompting recipients to go online, make a phone call, etc. Some companies have also used them to quickly illustrate and remind a prospect of the options that are available.
3. Advanced Personalization
Advanced personalization is another tactic that is gradually being rolled out. According to a 2012 Vertis survey, when asked, “Which of the following makes a difference to what direct mail you open?” 66 percent responded “customized name.”
Beyond including a prospect’s name, using personally targeted data and imagery on a mailpiece can make it seem special and unique. There are so many possibilities: geography, buying or donation history, age, gender, etc. But can personalization always be counted on to spur response? A few cautions are in order. First, data, whether big or small, must be absolutely accurate. Second, the leveraging of the information to make an offer has to be relevant to the customer. Without these two conditions, a prospect is likely to shrug off the attempt as just another clever, but possibly epic, “fail.”
Paul Bobnak is the director of research at Who's Mailing What!, which houses the most complete, searchable (and fully online) library of direct mail and mail in the world. To learn more about joining, go to www.whosmailingwhat.com. Reach him at email@example.com.