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Direct Mail Formats

How We Help You Figure Out the Right Formats for Your Direct Mail Campaigns

Matt Shanahan

Direct mail formats dictate not only how a mailpiece looks, but how it feels and the ways it communicates information to recipients. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your indecisiveness), there are a lot of options for choosing a direct mail format. As Manager of Product Research & Development Engineering at IWCO Direct, I help our team recommend the right formats for the right campaigns from a product engineering perspective.

Creating new formats is about chasing all of the ideas that come to our team, from external client requests to internal suggestions. Even if it’s been called a “bad idea” or “something we tried before,” we often revisit it to drive our creativity as technology continues to change and evolve.

Making Sense of How New Tech Can Strengthen Direct Mail Formats

One of our favorite approaches is taking an old idea and making it new again. We do this by adding options or elements that utilize our latest manufacturing technologies. Balancing the key design elements that drive response rates with efficient production practices can be challenging. In those cases, we prioritize the different elements of the mailpiece and requirements of the format so we can design a similar or equivalent format that is production-friendly.

When it comes to direct mail formats, there are a lot of factors to consider. Sometimes it is a key component, like a personalized card or the personalized color copy area that drives the primary design. For very specialized formats, the mailing quantities and timeline become a critical factor. In every instance, we leverage our knowledge and experience to focus on the key aspects that will help get the package opened and improve response rates.

We break formats into two main categories: envelope packages and self-mailers. Envelope packages with windows are the most prominent. Within that group, we focus on personalized letters with or without a card affixed. Then we look at the requirements for personalization to evaluate the need for color digital versus a traditional litho form with only black personalized copy. Lastly, we look at the size, paper weight, and folding requirements of the letter to design an efficient package for production.

Some of the most important criteria we focus on with package design are the personalization requirements and the physical components included. For the personalization requirements, we take a close look at how the art and copy is versioned and if it is variable or specific to the recipient. That will define what and how different components will be matched in the final package. Next, we look at all of the components in the package (such as the envelope, letter, card, and additional inserts) to evaluate their individual production as well as the finishing and inserting production.

Balancing Creativity, Cost, and Capacity

At IWCO Direct, our Product Engineering and Creative teams collaborate frequently. Our Creative and Marketing Services teams have extensive experience and direct feedback from our clients to identify the key design elements that improve response rates.

We take our clients’ response feedback and input to identify new formats that can be produced efficiently. Then we work directly with manufacturing to do the research and development necessary to test and validate the production specifications related to each format. The two main criteria we use to make recommendations on formats are cost and capacity. Our ideal formats take full advantage of our large manufacturing capacity and efficient low-cost production.

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, the earlier our clients engage us in the concept and design, the better. Allowing some flexibility on the art and design while focusing on the experience you want to provide with your direct mail will deliver a number of benefits.

Sometimes minor changes to art and sizes can save you a lot of cost in production and deliver equal or better response results. We frequently review concepts to provide suggestions to optimize production and give you the best performing package for your investment.

Get in touch with me to find out how IWCO Direct’s teams collaborate to develop the right direct mail format for your campaigns every time.

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2017/08/23/direct-mail-formats-production/
Matt Shanahan


Matt Shanahan

Director R&D/Production Engineering and graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Bringing the philosophy of “anything is possible with the right planning and resources” to IWCO Direct for over a decade. A sports and outdoor enthusiast, two of his greatest passions are the Metropolis Rugby Club and hiking with his family.

More Posts by Matt


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