Get the Envelope Opened!
The envelope is the first place to start when considering testing. Why? Every recipient sees it—and it affects whether recipients ever get to the rest of the mailing. It is also a relatively easy test. Additionally, there are many different types of envelope tests to try. Here are a few to consider.
"The outer envelope is the headline of direct mail."—Ed Nash
One technique used to geet a prospect to open the envelope is to entice them to want to know more. Teasers do just that. This technique has been successfully used by publishers to whet the reader's appetite to not only open the envelope, but to subscribe as well.
One example of a publisher using teasers successfully is Harper's. The editorial teasers on its envelopes hint at what readers can find in the magazine and directs them inside the package, looking for answers.
Inside: The government's secret plan to nationalize your bank. Christian singles dating questionnaire. The world according to Oliver North. How Wall Street stands to profit from AIDS....
Another example is the use of "fascinations" from the late Mel Martin, copywriter for Boardroom Inc. These mailings touch a hot spot with many prospects; the same mailings have gone out for years, with eye catching headlines such as:
What Credit Card Companies Don't Tell You and What Never to Eat on an Airplane.
To find the answers, you have to subscribe to the publications. On the other hand, the Nutrition Action Healthletter delivers on its powerful headline—Ten Foods You Should Never Eat ; inside the control mailing was a list of the foods to avoid.
The Color Question
"A white envelope is hard to beat. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to beat it, because if your envelope doesn't get opened, your package doesn't get read..."—Malcolm Decker
One way to tweak an old control is to try a different color envelope. A new color may give the mailing new life, as a quick glance will convince a recipient that he has not yet seen this package. Take Emily Soell's launch package for the Conde Nast Traveler; it mailed for a long time with much success, but then began to look too familiar. So every time response would flag, the color of the outer envelope was changed, which would boost up response. Bright colors—red, blue, green, white, black and yellow—were used, as well as a poly envelope. So instead of dumping your entire package the minute the control dips in response, you might want to try changing the color of the envelope.
With advances in printing technology, just about any color can be used. Printing your background color on white wove stock can save you both time and money: You're not paying a premium for colored stock and there's no waiting for special mill runs. Additionally, a myriad of colors becomes available with this flexographic process. Mailers can pick just about any color from a Pantone color book, or choose to screen back a color, says Brian Dudley, national account manager at Westvaco Corporation's envelope division.
Open-Faced or Closed?
Window and closed-faced envelopes each set a different mood for your mailing. Copywriter Gary Halbert believes one should strive to make a mailing look like personal correspondence and avoid the use of a window, while copywriter Bill Jayme suggests making the package look like advertising mail, including the use of a window.
Who's right? Both. It depends on what you're selling and who you're trying to reach. For example, when using the approach of an "invitation" to sell your product or service, the envelope should be closed face. Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street Club used this approach, with the envelope copy reading "Mr. [Your Name] only, please" to give the air of a secretive, one-to-one, personal correspondence. The Kiplinger Washington Letter also uses this approach, using a greeting card-sized envelope for added effect. Marketers hawking seminars, life insurance and financial offers have also mailed this format with success.
However, the majority of efforts in the mailstream are window envelopes. What you have peeking out of the envelope's window can be used to cause some excitement, such as the faux check. Omaha Steaks has used this approach with success for many years. With the words, "Your Reply Will Really Be Appreciated!" as the headline on a #10 white envelope, a fake check peeks through the window. Inside, the recipient sees that it is good for a discount on steaks. Who can resist opening an envelope with a check showing through?
If you use one window, why not use two? A control from Science News uses a second window, shaped in a circle, to show the word "Free" peeking through. Dudley has seen mailers test and roll-out double windows, so with the right offer, they can be effective. Another window feature that mailers use is a panoramic window, which usually covers the whole face of the envelope. Although he has seen a fair number of these tested, Dudley comments that not as many of these seem to roll-out. "The expense of a panoramic window can be a deterrent...among all the ways to differentiate your package, it's probably the most expensive."
In direct mail, size does matter. If everyone is mailing #10 envelopes, a different size can create some attention. A larger sized, 9˝x12˝envelope was employed successfully by the Harvard Heart Letter for a number of years. The 9˝x12˝ format has also been used by other magazines—namely, Smithsonian, Popular Science and Golf. All three have used this format, along with stickers on the OSE, to involve the reader and entice them inside the mailing.
But the 9˝x12˝ isn't the only option under the sun. Other possibilities include a 6˝x9˝, # 9, #11, etc. According to Dudley, popular sizes include the 9˝x12˝, 83⁄4˝ x113⁄4˝ and the 61⁄8˝x111⁄2˝. The 61⁄8˝x111⁄2˝ size has additional value, because it is large enough to stand out in a sea of #10s, but still qualifies for the letter rate postal discounts.
The four-color process has long been used to make packages stand out in the mail. And new technology has made this a more affordable option. Several companies now offer web lithography, also called roll-to-roll lithography. This is a faster, more efficient process for printing and converting four color process envelopes. And Dudley says there's a bonus: "Because we're converting from a web, you get a more consistent product. You remove the need to die cut blanks, which can result in inconsistencies of size to your finished envelope."
Dudley believes that four color process can be used very effectively, depending on the product you are offering. "To illustrate your product or people using your product, four-color process certainly makes the most sense." Outside magazine used this with some success, with a four-color envelope printed on a satin white background. Both an issue (showing a red canoe cutting through blue-green water) and a premium (a colorfully bright yellow "army" knife ) are shown in color.
Many mailers use bells and whistles in the mailing to involve the reader. One way to involve the reader is to place labels (stickers) on the OSE. As mentioned earlier, several of the magazines using the larger, 9˝x12˝ format also used stickers on the envelope, asking for a response.
Advances in flexographic printing have made a less expensive, yet equally effective mock label available, using fluorescent or metallic inks. "Instead of paying for a label and the application of it, you're simply adding a color," says Dudley. "If you're looking to immediately draw someone's eye to a particular area, fluorescent or metallic inks will do the job, and you'll have money left over."
A different paper stock is another way to give an envelope a lift. When going for an "invitation" look, a fine paper, such as granite or parchment, might work. The expensive looking stock leaves recipients feeling like they've received something exclusive. While "specialty papers" can be effective, they are also expensive and require special mill runs.
Some envelope companies offer a variety of flexographically printed patterns which simulate the look of specialty stocks. Book-of-the-Month Club uses this technique for its "Please Don't Tell Your Friends..." mailing. BOMC employs a Blue Granite pattern, which simulates an expensive granite stock.
According to Dudley, another aspect to test is texture; when people are leafing through the mail, an envelope with embossed grooves has a unique feel to it. This texture might catch your recipients' attention, and lure them into the envelope. The embossed grooves, which can run vertically or diagonally, create a classy look and feel, and may be another way to convey the idea of an invitation.
The Bottom Line
According to Dudley, when he talks to a customer about testing, their budget often dictates what can be tested. With this in mind, envelope manufacturers are striving to offer less expensive ways to produce some of the "bells and whistles" we've discussed. Westvaco, for example, set up a task force to develop affordable alternatives for direct mailers to differentiate their packages.
With the all the recent advances in printing—special effects, such as metallic colors, fake "stickers," embossed grooving—are making it easier to use techniques that get the envelope opened and still save money.
As Malcolm Decker says, "Remember, your envelope stands between you and orders. More prospects see your envelopes than will ever see what's inside them. So make sure your envelope not only carries the message, but also does everything possible to set up the sale."