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The elements of effective envelope design.

In considering the basics of newsletter marketing envelope design, remember that, in the last analysis, the carrier envelope has only two jobs:

* To keep the contents from getting lost before arrival at the recipient's address, and

* To get itself opened.

But to achieve the latter, there are a number of basics that can assist in getting the prospect inside your envelope.

Teaser copy. It's been tested a bajillion times. Teaser copy envelopes almost always outpull the plain vanilla approach regardless of what publishers may think about the nature of their audience ("Executives are turned off by 'promotional envelopes'").

Blank envelopes. If you decide to test this, do it all the way. Full return address, inkjetted address, First Class metered indicia. I remember Bill Jayme's dictum, "Any competent secretary can recognize advertising mail; the 'trick' is to design advertising mail that looks interesting."

First Class vs. Third. First Class almost never pays off--not worth the expense. I guess it doesn't "fool" the mail screener mentioned above.

Return address. I like it for launch mailings and new lists. There you are reaching a large number of prospects offering them the newsletter they didn't previously realize they had always wanted.

If I'm mailing to funeral directors, a stable industry, about Funeral Service Insider, a newsletter for which they've three or four mailings a year for more than 20 years, I'd definitely skip the return address.

Size. I've seldom seen oversized envelopes pay off--except perhaps those 9 X 12's coming from the Mayo Clinic and otehr health newsletter publishers.

I'm tempted to offer prize to the first person who finds a 6 X 9-inch envelope that is not advertising mail. When I go to my P.O. box I find I do a preliminary hand sort. I shuffle the mail looking for the #10 business envelopes; those are the ones which contain orders, checks, "real business mail," and I look at those first (see sidebar).

Windows. The address label showing through a window creates, as one of my mentors, Rene Gnam, liked to say, a sense of mystery about "what is in there with my name on it?" A second window cut to reveal the mouth-watering premium executive report can also be effective.

Colors. Eighty percent of business mail comes in #10 white envelopes. This "ought to" make envelopes that stand out by reason of size or color more effective--but it doesn't seem to. (Remember, direct mail is not a "why" business, it's a "what" business.)

At United Communications, we did always have success with red envelopes for "quiz packages" that we used for many titles. Also, Kraft envelopes are effective for any publication that can use the quasi-official approach in its marketing.

Tilted stamps and split-gum envelopes. Two of my favorite direct marketing urban legends: Did Publishers Clearing House or some other giant mailer actually ever test "tilting" a live stamp--making it look as if it was applied by a human--and see that it increased response?

A split-gum envelope has only several segments of glue on the envelope flap, rather than a continuous strip--thus making it easier to open and increasing response. I'd have to see the test results to believe it.

Novelty envelopes. They have had, and will have, their moment in the sun. Mylar colors, the "zipper" envelope where the prospect pulls a tab and the contents fall out in his or her hand. These tend to have a short shelf life. After the prospect has seen a couple, the mystery is gone.

RELATED ARTICLE: Down at the post office

If you've never done it, take a half-hour or so in midmorning and hang around the lobby of your neighborhood post office. Watch people "pre-sort" their mail before even leaving the building

Note which kinds of self-mailers and envelopes get discarded fastest--and who's doing the tossing: business people, their secretaries, blue collar workers, and retirees.

My own post office in a town of about 10,000 has four large garbage cans in the lobby, and they are all full at the end of each day.--P.S.
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Title Annotation:DM Notebook
Author:Goss, Fred
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:May 23, 2005
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