Envelope Manufacuters Association’s Tonya Muse on Envelopes
Copywriting legend Herschell Gordon Lewis has said that envelopes serve two purposes: to get themselves opened and to keep their contents from “spilling out onto the streets.” While sound production makes the latter a simple goal, the former poses a more formidable challenge. Understanding this, Alexandria, Va.-based trade association Envelope Manufacturers Association (EMA) and its nonprofit research arm, the EMA Foundation, set out in late 2005 to conduct a study that would offer some insight into how people view and relate to envelopes.
Since I know you love envelopes—in 2005, 63 percent of efforts received by the Who’s Mailing What! Archive were envelope packages—I thought it would be interesting to talk with Tonya Muse, senior vice president of the EMA and executive director of the EMA Foundation, about some of the study’s findings. Here, she reflects on the important role personalization plays in that vital first impression, the impact gender and race have on what a prospect looks for in an envelope, and where she sees envelopes headed.
TG: What did the study determine were the most effective tactics for getting an envelope opened?
TM: We found the name of the sender and return address is the number one reason why people pay attention to an envelope and look inside. Another effective tactic is personalization. People are more inclined to open an envelope when there is some kind of personal element to it, especially if it’s handwritten or has a postage stamp; people seem to respond to elements that exude a personal touch. Also, when mailers personalize their envelopes to a hobby. For example, if we know that someone is an avid book reader and the text on [the envelope] keys into that, that will capture their attention. People also are definitely more inclined to read print if it has color, if it’s vivid and if it’s an odd shape, not just the typical #10 or 9˝ x 12˝ mailer. What the study found, beyond just the linear personalization, is the importance of how envelopes personally engage someone. Maybe it’s packaged in such a way that is a little mysterious, or it’s distinctive in the shape or the texture. How the envelope personally engages the recipient and evokes emotion has a lot to do with [its] ability to get opened.