3 Ways to Make Your Postcards Stand Out
Back in the day (yes, I was a creative back then), prior to cheap 4-Color process printing, you had to find clever, inexpensive ways to get your postcards noticed in the mail. I was the king of using combinations of two PMS colors to portray full color, and an expert in paper stocks. Most importantly, I learned all I could about printing. Why? Because printing techniques have always been one of the best tools in my creative toolbox.
Today I will discuss three of my favorite printing techniques — when applied to your concept, they can help your postcards stand out.
This is the easiest and one of the most effective ways to make your mail stand out. There are so many paper stocks that will make recipients stop and take a second look at your mail. But in today’s 4-Color world, creatives are not considering paper as much as they should.
Consider an ultra-heavy stock, or even sandwiching two sheets together. Most mail is floppy. If your postcard is the most rigid in a stack of mail, it will receive attention. That few extra seconds your consumers spend investigating will increase your response rate.
You should choose stocks heavier than 16pt — double it up and make it 32pt. Print one side of the sheet, sandwich two sheets together and then trim to size. Printing companies like Moo Cards offer this as a standard option.
Your stock could be particle board on which you can use production techniques like embossing, silk screening or letterpress.
Companies like Ward/Kraft are sandwiching your postcard in plastic. I know, I know: Plastic will increase your postage costs. But not with this product — they’re getting standard postage rates. This card is extremely rigid and has options for punch-out cards and tags.
Texture is a wonderful way to make materials stand out. Our fingers are amazingly aware and notice anything that is abnormal. Bumpy, sticky, rubbery surfaces — anything that is not the regular feel of paper.
Use a gloss or matte varnish as a texture for sections of your postcard. Varnishes across the entire piece, like matte or glossy, will not create the unique texture you want. You want gaps for your fingers to distinguish the differences. This will also work for spot UV as well, which can create an even more dramatic effect.
Embossing is another way to catch your recipients’ fingers and attention. You can use traditional embossing or use letterpress printing, an old-school printing technique that gives a feel similar to that of embossing.
Another old-school printing technique to add a fun and playful texture is thermography: raised-letter or raised-image printing. Thermography produces a rubbery texture, so that when printed over your artwork it can be noticeably tactile.
Shaped mail is a little trickier but can be very effective. The post office has some specific requirements that you need to be aware of. Best advice: Run any design you think you might pursue by the post office you’ll mail out from. Note that the responses may vary from post office to post office.
You can do simple things that the post office won’t have problems with, like nipping corners. The best use of this I’ve ever seen was a postcard in the shape of the state of Kansas. They just nipped the corner and voila: the state of Kansas.
There are also companies that have gotten specific products approved by the post office. ShipShapes was one of the first to do this. Their designs have gotten intricate over time but they also have some simple shapes you can take advantage of. There’s no way to ignore these pieces in the mail.
The Bottom Line
There are many printing techniques that can help you get noticed in the mail. Take the time to learn about printing — I make all my young creatives do so. Printing is not taught in school like it used to be. The Web, email and social media dominate now. But here’s a little secret: Mail will never stop and there are companies that are still making mail successful. How do I know? Direct marketing 101 — whatever works, keep doing. And test, test, test.
Want to learn more about different printing techniques? Here’s a post by Ciara Panacchia on Design Instruct with descriptions and samples of many of the techniques I’ve described. You’ll recognize some of the examples I used here.
Patrick Fultz is the President/CCO of DM Creative Group, a creative marketing firm producing work across all media. He’s an art-side creative, marketing strategist, designer and lover of all things type. His credentials include a degree from Parsons School of Design with 15 years of teaching at his alma mater, over 40 industry creative awards, and he previously served as President of the John Caples International Awards. Always an innovator, Fultz was credited with creating the first 4-color variable data direct mail piece ever produced. He continues to look for innovative ways to tap the powerful synergy of direct mail, the web, digital and social media.