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Focus on Five Fundamentals For Format Development

Mike Dietz

Our Creative Services team is often challenged to develop new formats and designs for our clients’ direct mail campaigns. One trend we’re seeing is an increase in requests that integrate QR codes (due in part to the upcoming mobile barcode discount), pURLs or other multichannel components into new package formats.

Whenever we start developing a new format, there are a number of topics to address that help us understand the client’s expectations and eliminate surprises. After all, nobody wants to fall in love with a new design only to learn it will significantly increase production or mailing costs (unless the anticipated ROI justifies it).

With that in mind, I’ve created a checklist of key considerations marketers should be able to answer before embarking on new format development. By taking these into consideration at the outset, you’re more likely to be happy with the final outcome and avoid any, “I wish we would have known that sooner” moments.

1.  Budget parameters
It’s always better to start a project once this topic has been discussed. Knowing your budget at the beginning of a project provides a foundation for all aspects of a new direct mail design. It also keeps everyone on the same page in terms of priorities and expectations.

2.  Mailing quantity
Often new formats include a differently sized package, which can impact production or postage costs compared with your current format. The initial price difference may not be that great for your new test package, but rolling it out to your full list may push the total price out of your budget. Understanding your cost matrix is crucial.

3.  Personalization
Give your creative team an understanding of how much personalization you want included for both the copy and artwork. Knowing how much variable data is involved and the quality of the images not only influences the creative elements and how the piece should be formatted, it helps us design most appropriately for the type of press it will run on.

4.  Response channel
It’s important to think through how your customers or prospects will be directed to respond. Will the new package include a business reply envelope and paper application? If not, will recipients be driven to a website or a call center? If that’s the case, how many times should the pURL or 1-800 number be promoted throughout the design?

5.  Comprehensive disruption of content
If “comprehensive disruption of content” sounds like a term you’ve never heard before, you’re right. We think we’ve coined it for any lengthy legal disclosures or description of benefits that are required. It’s important to know about these blocks of copy up-front. It’s easy to design around these issues, provided they’re known ahead of time. Don’t wait until the last round of reviews to let the creative team know there’s a full page of fine print that needs to be included.

The IWCO Direct creative team uses this checklist as a best practices approach to starting a new design or format, and we hope it will ensure a smooth and satisfying process during your next design project.

– Mike Dietz
Director of Creative Services

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2012/02/22/focus-on-five-fundamentals-for-format-development/
Mike Dietz


Mike Dietz

Executive Creative Director, graduate of St. Cloud State University and IWCO Direct team member for more than 18 years. Personal business philosophy: “Beautiful design is fantastic, but if it doesn’t work it doesn’t matter.” Proud father who enjoys spending time with family, golfing and is a life-long Minnesota Vikings fan.

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