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In Full Bloom: A Fresh Look at the Impact of Color on Direct Mail Response

Mike Dietz

Even though it snowed here in Chanhassen just a week ago, I’m starting to see some patches of green on my drive home. After a long winter and muddy spring, it’s a huge relief to know that some color variety is coming our way.

It’s the same with mail. In a sea of white paper and black ink, a pop of color is a greatly needed break for the eyes. Color adds interest and attracts prospects to the package, but it also helps the marketer better communicate key messages. The benefits of using strategic color are two-fold: it makes your design better and it makes your messaging stronger. Here is a further explanation of the impact of color on direct mail and how it helps achieve these goals:

Color Highlights Important Messages

Think of color as a highlighter. As we’ve written in the past, highlighters are used because they make marked items easy to spot and draw your attention to them. Likewise, you only highlight the things you think are extremely important or want to remember. Color in direct mail design acts the same way. By using it thoughtfully and sparingly, you’re able to draw the prospect’s attention to the most important part of your messaging, like the call to action or specific benefits. But while color works as a highlighter, don’t pigeon-hole it by only using it for emphasis. Four-color photography, for instance, is a great way to help prospects relate to your products. (It works even better in a digital workflow when photos are variable and the images can be switched out to best apply to specific statements.)

Color Helps You Stand Out

Another strategic use of color is employing flood colors to voucher panels and sidebars. This breaks up text and creates packaged messaging sections within the form. Using a colored envelope is another tactic that often improves response rates because it’s so markedly different from other mailpieces. For example, a bright yellow envelope grabs a prospect’s eyes when next to other white envelopes in the mailbox. However, the increased response rates seen with colored envelopes don’t translate to envelopes that use 4-color images because they are perceived as too promotional to prospects.

Evaluate Your Use of Color

Begin looking at color after the general layout is done and key messages are determined. Look at where the call to action is, evaluate whether that messaging is getting lost, and which areas of the form can benefit from color. It’s important to take a step back every now and then to make sure that you haven’t saturated the piece with so much color that you put your prospects in a tailspin and confuse your messaging.

Many clients like to use their brand colors in sidebars, boxes or secondary font colors to create brand recognition; others like to use yellow for highlighting text since it’s so recognizable, while others prefer employing elements of red to suggest urgency or importance. Regardless of your color choice, avoid overly bright colors for text and to make sure the font is easily read through any blocks of color. Color guides readers to your message, but that won’t do any good if they have trouble reading what the message is.

Presses and Ink-Sets are Improving

Ink-sets are getting better, and color gamuts are becoming more consistent. The gap between conventional and digital printing is closing, so the type of press you’re using may no longer be a hindrance to your use of color. Color is instrumental to a design and how a message is perceived, so it is well worth any extra costs. If you’re trying to reduce color costs, evaluate your use of more expensive, unique inks like metallic.

Color can be an effective way to focus consumers’ attention on what you want them to notice most and improve your design as a whole. For more information on the impact of color and how you can use it to improve your direct mail piece, contact me.

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2015/04/29/impact-of-color-on-direct-mail-response/
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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