When was the last time you went browsing for a new book? How many covers did you scan before picking one up and reading the description on the back? As petty as it sounds, we are a culture that often literally judges a book by its cover. And why shouldn’t we? With hundreds of thousands of options available, it’s no surprise that we try to save time by eliminating the items we don’t immediately find gripping.
Covers, wrappers, and other packaging are pivotal to the success of many products, including books, magazines, movies, food, and more. The cover sets the tone, provides hints to the content, and makes you pause for one reason or another. While you might think of it as “just the wrapping,” it’s really the last promotional piece you see before making a decision to either continue with the buying journey or disregard the product.
Of all the products you encounter with promotional covers and wrappers, mail is probably the one that is the least obvious. However, direct mail envelopes truly are promotional material—they are the thing that entices the recipient to go a step further. If the envelope doesn’t do its job well, no one will open it or see its content. It’s the first barrier to direct mail conversion, but it’s also an opportunity to increase interest, position the product, and improve the marketing message.
Direct Mail Envelope Design Should Be as Thoughtful as Form Design
When our design team begins sketching out direct mail packages, we typically lay out the forms and inserts, then craft the envelope around the content and tone of those pieces. We want the envelope to complement the marketing message, which is fully described in the “innards” of the mailpiece. That may mean including a window to reveal the edge of a card, choosing a thinner paper stock for the envelope so the recipient can feel the texture or bulk of inserts, or teasing content with personalized messaging.
The worst thing a marketer can do is spend time on the innards of a mailpiece and then throw it in whatever envelope is available. It not only diminishes your chance of getting the piece opened, but it misses a huge opportunity to reinforce your brand, increase the strength of the mailpiece, and create a full-fledged experience for the recipient.
Consider All Elements of an Envelope for Maximum Performance
There are a lot of considerations when designing direct mail envelopes, so make sure you are taking enough time to make thoughtful decisions. Here are some basic elements (and opportunities!) that will need to be deliberated:
- Stamp vs. indicia vs. meter
- Window (number, shape, and size)
- Labels, stickers, or stamps
Don’t think of each element on its own—think about how they will come together to form the “cover” of the mailpiece, and then review how the cover will interact with the other elements to form one coherent marketing piece. The envelope should be strong on its own and increase the strength of the content by adding to the tone and message.
With that said, a strong direct mail envelope does not always require bells and whistles. A classic, white #10 envelope with no branding or messaging can be a strong envelope for a mailpiece with an official offer from an unknown company. Design does not necessarily mean lots of color and graphics—it means intentional planning and purpose for how things are presented and how you want them to be perceived.
Next time you go to the library or book store—or yes, even your mailbox—pay attention to how the outer cover influences your decision-making process. You’ll be shocked at how quick you are to judge. Then, contact me and we’ll create a plan for an envelope that will make your marketing mail irresistible.
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