How to Use Icons in Direct Mail
In any communication, clarity is crucial. This is especially true of direct mail, traditionally a medium that has relied heavily on a magic combination of copy and design to get a point across to the reader. Like never before, marketers are deploying icons and pictograms in their direct mail packages. After looking through some recent efforts from Who’s Mailing What!, the world’s most complete library of direct mail and email, I’ve identified a few key ways to use them to maximum effect.
Show the Benefits
You want to spell out what a customer gets in return for parting with some of their money, but can run into a problem explaining something complex. Take credit card marketers, tasked with explaining a rewards program to a potential card member. They can, and to be honest, should use a lot of copy somewhere to provide details on how these plans work … just not in the body of the letter.
In a mailing for its Ink Plus business card, Chase Bank uses a row of icons, spread across the letter, to illustrate how points can be earned by a customer. Each icon represents a shopping activity. For example, a paper clip stands for making purchases at office supply stores, resulting in rewards points. The fine print is saved for the mousetype on the back of the page.
Show the Impact
Nonprofit fundraisers have an array of resources at their disposal to explain what their organization does and needs. In the right hands, copy and images can make a powerful, emotional connection to the donor. Often, though, facts and figures can get lost in the midst of an appeal.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center recently reached out to its past contributors with a campaign centering on how donations have been used. Talking about a specific numerical result is old hat in fundraising direct mail, but illustrating it on the back of the outer envelope is not. Below a headline: "What impact can you make?” are three pictograms (each with a bit of copy) answering that question. For example, hands holding a test tube and lab flask are paired with “1,259 life-saving studies.”