Mailbag Review: Getting the Envelope Opened
According to direct mail guru Herschell Gordon Lewis, "the only purpose of the carrier envelope, other than keeping its contents from spilling out onto the street, is to get itself opened." True enough, but how to accomplish such a feat has always provoked a lot of disagreement and, therefore, different approaches.
This was the case in January. Take the photo lab outer, an old standby for nonprofits, perhaps because there are many people who remember when pictures weren't delivered digitally. "Do not bend. Photos enclosed" reads the front of the orange-and-white 6" x 10" OE for Help Hospitalized Veterans (Archive code #604-171771-1001, see thumbnail below). Inside, four snapshots demonstrate to the donor how patients benefit from a contribution to the charity.
Cleveland Clinic (Archive code #101-699954-1001, see thumbnail below) relies on an indirect teaser, the promise of a secret, on the front of its #10 envelope. Beginning with a bold headline, "AN ANATOMY QUIZ — JUST FOR MEN," the teaser ramps up the fear factor: "You hate to think about it. You don't want to talk about it. What is 'it'?" The four-page letter reveals the answer — "prostate problems" — and offers a report as a solution.
The non-emotional copy on the front of the #10 for AmeriCares (Archive code #605-174932-1001, see thumbnail below) sets itself apart from its competition: "No expensive research. No bureaucracies to fight. No llamas to buy. We already have treatments and cures ... we just need help delivering them!" The campaign's four-page letter inside continues the theme: That the only obstacles the organization faces are logistical.
At the other side of the spectrum are blind outers that need some other feature to get themselves opened. For Save the Children (Archive code #613-172763-1001), it's an index card that appears through the address window. Once opened, it turns out that the "Donor Record" card is a reminder to past contributors of their previous gift amounts, and the continuing need for more money.
While many marketers use cursive handwriting on the outside of their envelopes, those are usually invitation-sized carriers and include four-color greeting cards and inserts. These two efforts are white #10s, and aside from presorted indicia. The mailing for Oxford Lending Group (Archive code #535-717980-1001) includes a single sheet of paper, what looks like a photocopy of an offer worksheet from a mortgage agent with sample amounts, and interest rates filled in and highlighted in yellow.
Likewise, the handwritten outer from AT&T (Archive code #837-171624-1001), when opened, reveals what seems to be a photocopied promotion for its high-speed internet service. To create that low-budget look, some of the dark shading near the edges is faded, and to add a personal one-to-one touch, handwritten notes in blue ink point out features like "great for when you're on the road," and a $250 cash-back incentive "that will come in handy!"