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Using Highlights in Direct Mail Design: Old School Thinking Still Top of Its Class

Mike Dietz

Highlighting text is a technique that can be overlooked despite its proven success in direct mail design. This is often because some marketers have concerns that the technique will clash with other elements of the design or that it is too old-school. But while it might be “old school thinking,” it’s still at the top of its class.

The highlighter is attributed to Japanese inventor Yukio Horie, who created a felt-tip pen that used water based ink in 1960. But it was Carter’s Ink, a company in Massachusetts, that added translucent color to a similar ink and created what we now think of as a highlighter. This 1963 product, named the Hi-Liter®, took off quickly in the American market due to the ink’s smooth, even application and eye-catching, vibrant colors.

By the 1970s, highlighting replaced underlining as a way to note something of importance and quickly refer back to it. The highlighter’s appeal has grown in the digital age. You’ll notice that most computer software like Microsoft Word has a highlighter function built into it.

The main advantage of the highlighter is in its see-through colors like yellow and pink that draw the eye and neatly delineate text without obscuring it. In other words, highlighting text makes it stand out on a page, but doesn’t make it hard to read. When used properly to emphasize top benefits or calls to action, highlighting ensures that even those who just skim will get the essence of your message.

The use of highlighting also gives your piece an official feel. Think about legal documents or bank statements that require your signature. More often than not, those sections are highlighted for your convenience. Those types of important, attention-required documents come to mind for many consumers when they see important sections of text highlighted.

Another plus of using a highlighter is that it makes the piece feel more personal. The hap-hazard, unique lines that a highlighter produces shows a human touch that creates the illusion that a person carefully looked over the text and highlighted the important information. This one visual detail gives the recipient reason to think that a great deal of time and attention was spent in creating the message.

Highlighters have evolved tremendously over the years. What once used to be a choice of three or four colors has turned into a gamut of size, color and even smell options. But when it comes to direct marketing, sticking to the classic colors is usually best.

Because 85% of highlighter sales are yellow and pink, those colors are common enough that they don’t distract from the message. There’s also a benefit that most official establishments use yellow for highlighting. If you do want to go for a trendier highlighter, be sure that it works with the piece. Otherwise, you risk your marketing looking like a teenager’s history notes.

The proven success of the highlighter in design is unquestionable. Contact us to see what a big difference a little swipe of a pen can cause.

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2014/10/15/using-highlights-in-direct-mail-design/
Mike Dietz

Author

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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