At IWCO Direct, when we’re not overeating and celebrating the holidays, we find ourselves thinking about trends we can expect to be hot in the new year. For me, that means trends that will be hot in direct mail design. This can be a tricky subject, because it’s hard to generalize about trends when you work with clients in a large variety of industries who mail many different types of mail, such as acquisition and loyalty. It gets even more difficult because we’re designing campaigns that won’t be seen by the consumer for approximately 2-3 months, and trends can change dramatically in that timeframe.
Instead of trying to identify specific trends within every industry, I spend my time looking at what is going to influence those trends the most.
Direct Mail Design Elements Tend to Repeat Themselves
In general, most trends are cyclical whether you’re dealing with direct mail design or fashion—think about the bell bottoms you used to wear that are now appearing in catalogs again. Looking at what trends the industry as a whole has adopted in the past often provides a good clue about what trends we can expect to start seeing again. It’s also important to consider that trends seem to be opposite of what they previously have been, if only for a change of pace and shocking contrast. For example, industries where bright, heavily-colored pieces were popular might start using a more subdued palette.
Technology Influences Every Aspect of the Design Process
Technology plays a huge role in direct mail design, and its impact is seen across the entire lifecycle of a mailpiece.
With the growth of digital print, we are seeing a greater call for personalization, which impacts certain design elements. For example, a strategist may decide to include a geographic location, like a state, to personalize the mailing for each recipient. With that in mind, a designer may decide to include a simple headline with the state’s name in it, a large photo of a local landmark, or a stamp of the state’s outline, which would change depending on the recipient’s address. If the personalization technology wasn’t available, none of those elements would be beneficial.
In terms of the actual mailpiece, print technology has expanded our ability to create new, out-of-the-box direct mail designs like unique window shapes or format lengths. The format acts like a canvas for the designer and greatly impacts how the piece will be laid out and what elements will be included.
Another way technology informs design is by making use of technology that is available to the consumer. Smartphones have opened the door for QR Codes, augmented reality, and other technologies to connect the physical mailpiece with digital marketing efforts. As consumers move toward using these tools more regularly, designers will need to find ways to incorporate them into their pieces.
Results Must Always Come First
I often say that creating a really cool new design is great, but it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work. Design trends are only good if they can grab an audience’s attention and compel them to keep reading and take action. Therefore, following trends needs to be done carefully and with consideration of direct mail best practices. Test trends before taking the plunge to make one your control package, and never get rid of direct mail fundamentals—like a P.S. or call to action—in favor of a trendy new design element.
It’s also important to include trends that have worked across a variety of verticals, even if they aren’t all that new. Try including a card, incorporating personalization, adding a sidebar, or streamlining copy with highlights or bullet points in your next mailpiece, and see how it impacts response.
Want a run-down on the latest trends for your upcoming campaign? Contact me today, and we’ll ring-in the new year with some cutting-edge direct mail designs.
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