Direct Mail Design That Is Working NOW
As I've seen in the Who's Mailing What! Archive, overall mail volume is down in practically every sector. Of course, that means that mail may have a greater chance to be looked at and opened, particularly if the design is right.
I talked to a group of experts recently about direct mail design and what exactly is working right now.
1. Understated but deft design
"I've been doing some work in the insurance and financial verticals lately, and the more serious and less easily identified as 'ad mail' the piece is, the better it does," says Nancy Harhut, chief creative officer at The Wilde Agency. "So that has meant pulling back on graphic, four-color OE treatments." And sometimes that means going in the opposite direction of where the designer wants to go.
2. Keep the prospect focused … on the message
Harhut says that overly designed packages may look good, but can turn off prospects in some verticals, such as insurance and financial. Reason: The message sometimes gets lost.
"Extensive use of color enhances eye-appeal, but as often as not it gives no lift to response by shifting emphasis from message to artistry," explains Herschell Gordon Lewis, copywriter and author of "On the Art of Writing Copy."
That said, color and design can be deftly used to pull the target in, direct attention and pop key messages both inside and out, says Harhut. A deft touch can make all the difference for a campaign.
3. Use more of the outer
The plain outer remains standard in certain sectors. In other words, the canvas is left blank, sometimes too often.
"I do see an increase in envelopes with heavy copy and graphics on both sides," reports Bob Bly, copywriter and author of the recent "The Marketing Plan Handbook: Develop Big-Picture Marketing Plans for Pennies on the Dollar."
Grant Johnson, president of Johnson Direct, concurs. "There is more use of dissecting the outer — and using the entire space as a meaningful canvas will continue to be done."
Over at Modern Postcard, where Keith Goodman is vice president of corporate solutions, the same trend is occurring. "Every type of media that we are involved with is becoming increasingly more visual. Why would direct mail be any different?"
4. Treat, rather than trick, them
Prospects will look at things that interest them. Simple as that. But Patrick Fultz, a direct mail designer and president of DM Creative Group, says this simple fact is often forgotten by designers. His goal is to design the outer envelope in such a way that the prospect will stop and then hopefully go inside.
He'll first assess what techniques he has at his disposal, depending on the campaign. Maybe it's the format, the window structure, using plastic, going with an illustration or photography, p-URLs or g-URLs, and the offer.
"It's not about a design tip or trick," states Fultz, who is also President of the John Caples International Awards. "I've seen many Caples entries over the years that had a really cool production technique or object affixed or a cool illustration technique and yet the concept was weak and, therefore, took the piece out the game."
He concludes, "Think about it ... make it hard for me to read or find the info and I'm gone. No one will work hard for your package—we're all lazy that way."