5 Window Treatments That Work
On June 10, 1902, in Chicago, window envelopes were first patented by the wonderfully named Americus F. Callahan. His patent described the windows as “holes” for looking at the paper inside, and he noted that they could save both time and labor. Callahan also hinted that window envelopes could be more colorful than ordinary envelopes. For example, he said, “black paper [presents] an advantage over papers of other colors in that a striking contrast may be provided between the address appearing through the envelop[e] and the balance of the envelop[e].”
Today, windows are still used heavily in direct mail—and many aren’t that much different than Callahan’s invention, in innovation or purpose. “Like curtains, they can create interest, revealing only what the user wishes. Handy invention,” comments Peggy Greenawalt, president/creative director at Tomarkin/Greenawalt, based in Hartsdale, N.Y.
Alan Rosenspan, president of Alan Rosenspan & Associates, a direct marketing creative and consulting firm based in Newton, Mass.—and who wrote about the outer envelope in his “50 New Ways to Improve Response” article in the March 2008 issue of Inside Direct Mail—agrees. “They say that the eyes are the window to the soul. The window may perform the same function in a direct mail package. It should give you just a glimpse of what’s inside and help you decide whether or not you want to go any further.”
Accordingly, here are five ways to “treat” that envelope.
1. Intrigue the prospect
Greenawalt says there are good reasons to use non-address windows. “It’s intriguing to have a free offer sticker, premium photo, freemium or a message peering through, so that the prospect has to open the outer to find out about what is hidden.”
Meanwhile, she gives two good response reasons to use a window for the addressee section of an envelope, including 1) making content look like an invoice or check in monarch or #10 mailings, and 2) making a jumbo manila envelope look as if there is a report or other important letter or official document inside.
“A window envelope is almost like a real window,” concurs Rosenspan. “It says something is inside—with your name on it. And I think it still has the power to get people to open the envelope.”
2. Implement odd shapes
“We’re beginning to use a lot of odd-shaped windows, which we think is improving response,” reveals Rosenspan, who is considering using a circle window for one company whose logo is in a circle.
Greenawalt notes that odd shapes can increase prospect involvement. “Odd-shaped windows with interesting die-cuts are eye-catching design devices. How much lift do you need to compensate for the cost? Could be worth the gamble.”
3. Double it up (maybe even triple it)
Rosenspan is a big fan of the double window and frequently uses this tactic. “The advantage of the double window is that you can put it anywhere—on the top of the envelope, alongside the other window—and reveal just enough information to get people to want to open it.” He says that his company has even experimented with a triple window for AT&T.
“A reply-by-date window [is] eye-catching and add[s] urgency, and I believe [it] can be of value if the offer is good,” asserts Greenawalt, who often uses a separate window above the address window to pull the eye away from the business portion and make the piece look more personal. “People like to see their names in print, and this is a relatively inexpensive way to add personalization. Most often, I repeat Sample’s name in a large interesting type, if it’s appropriate for an invitation approach.”
4. Large window saves money (but may cost creatively)
While the large window still has some creative validity (such as when the first line of copy shows through), it’s mostly used so the return address shows through from the letter and, thus, allows you to version each letter without adding much extra cost. Today, however, that savings is less. “As in-line printing becomes pervasive, and cost-effective, the original use of a [large] window begins to fall away. It’s just as easy and cost-effective to personalize the OE,” remarks Rosenspan.
Greenawalt agrees. “I think most creative people would opt for a close-faced envelope with personalization instead of an address window most of the time, given the choice. It’s pretty hard to make the mailing look like personal mail when you have a window. And you have to leave so much clear space on the order card, it impedes the grace of the design. Very limiting. Unfortunately, the cost is too compelling to ignore. Have we creatives become bean counters? Say it ain’t so!”
5. Billboard window adds color (but maybe too much)
Billboard windows, on the back of envelopes, are another mixed bag. “I’ve been using them for years to keep the cost of the outer down. A simple one-color outer becomes four-color when the brochure shows through. A big back window also can reveal a tempting freemium like a sheet of stickers. If Ms. Sample wants them, she has to open the envelope,” explains Greenawalt.
But it can also create some problems if not used properly, says Rosenspan. “I worry about the huge window. I see it being used by a lot of insurance companies these days. I believe they are forgetting the purpose of the envelope—and that is to get opened. If I can read enough through your window to make a decision without opening the envelope—it’s a bad window and a bad envelope.”