When it comes to direct mail, almost everyone judges the book by its cover, or in this case, the envelope. The outer envelope makes the first, and sometimes last, impression on the recipient. That’s why it’s crucial to have an envelope design that not only catches their eye, but gets them to open it.
The first thing I do when considering an envelope is think about the offer. As I’ve stated in earlier posts, there are three main categories for presenting an offer: Official, Promotional and Hybrid. The direction you go is almost always dependent on who you are and what you’re selling.
In the mailing world, industries have their own style. Retail tends to be more promotional while financial institutions often feel more official. You want to match the format of the envelope with the offer being presented so the recipient begins reading the letter with the right frame of mind. Think of a book: if you see a cover with Fabio, you’re going to open the book and expect a romance novel, not an explanation of string theory.
You also need to consider where the recipient is in terms of customer engagement. Are they loyal patrons? Are they expecting your mailing? Or are they totally new to the company? Blind envelopes are typically a good way to go if there isn’t an established relationship. That means keeping company branding to a minimum and giving it the feel of official business correspondence.
In general, simple tends to work better in mail. People quickly judge what to keep and what to throw away, and heavy graphics tend to read as too promotional and busy. A simple envelope is just vague enough to make the recipient wonder who’s trying to contact them and why.
Of course, outer envelope design alone might not be enough to grab the recipient’s attention. If Fabio’s ruffled shirt isn’t enough to draw a reader in, the tagline about a general who falls in love with the enemy’s daughter might do the trick. Same goes for personalization on envelopes.
The biggest benefit of personalizing the outer envelope is that it creates intrigue to open. Add an expiration date to create a sense of urgency and headlines calling out the recipient to tease main benefits. We’ve recently seen companies increase their response rates by referring to the recipient’s specific geographic location, such as their city. It can portray a more localized offer from a national company to suggest the consumer will receive personal attention. Just be careful not to get so personal that it becomes creepy.
In the end, you want your envelope to be like a book cover: something with just enough detail to create intrigue to get someone to open it and see what’s inside. The envelope does an important job, because as much as we would like to feel differently, most of us really do judge a book by its cover. Of course, once you get past the hurdle of the envelope, there’s still the letter inside… but that’s another chapter entirely. Come back Friday for the conclusion of Creative Week when we’ll take a look at designing inside the envelope.
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