Direct Mail Isn't Dead: You Just Have to Make It Home to Life

By: Michael DiFranco

With the rise in spam emails, phishing links and overzealous advertisers, consumers’ email — and confidence — are pushed to the limits. The results? Your sales promotions, new product offers and marketing communications go directly to the trash bin — or worse into a junk folder. This is bad news for companies who rely on digital as the only way to market to and reach their target audience. Add to that the fact that approximately 15 percent of Americans don’t use the internet, and the effectiveness of digital ads and emails drops even more.

Direct mail, sometimes seen as an outdated channel for reaching consumers, is still one of the best options to get promotions and offers directly into the hands of consumers — something that many emails simply cannot achieve. While claims of direct mail being dead are ubiquitous, direct mail is far from being dead.

But not all direct mail is treated equal. Here are six methods for pumping life into direct mail campaigns.

1. Make It Stand Out — Shape and Size Matter

Standard envelopes don’t cut it anymore. They all look the same, which means they all blend together and go unnoticed. Creating standout direct mail is crucial to getting noticed. While direct mail of years back was either standard-sized envelopes or postcards, today’s direct mail is more innovative than ever. Structure and size of direct mail is paramount to transforming an ordinary, bland direct mail piece into a standout, attention-grabbing piece that demands to be opened. Structural pieces that have a unique shape – beyond the flat envelope or postcard – give direct mail a whole new personality and attractiveness that consumers demand.

With many structural pieces being just as easy to process through the postal service as flat pieces, adding a structural component to direct mail takes it from ordinary to extraordinary.

2. Make It High Quality — Sturdiness Matters

First impressions are everything, especially in direct mail. And when it comes to direct mail, quality matters — a lot! A study by MWV showed that consumers equate the “feel” of a sturdier mailer with a high-quality brand or offer. That perception can drive more consumers to read your message, respond to your offer and increase your campaign’s success.

When it comes to direct mail, opting for a quality, sturdier stock can make a huge difference, even as trivial as this choice may seem. While choosing lower stocks may be cost-efficient, the resulting mailer will be less effective and can even be easily damaged in transit to the recipient. Add life and perceived value to your mailers by choosing the right stock and material for your piece.

3. Make It Visually Impactful

Visual impact is fundamental to the success of an acquisition direct mail piece. From high gloss finishes to metallic sheens, creating a visually remarkable piece that commands attention is the key to getting consumers to consider your direct mail piece.

Colors and finishes are an ideal way to add visual impact to direct mail. Specialty coatings, foils and metallics create an instant visual attraction. These specialty coatings significantly change the way people perceive direct mail. Not only do colors and specialty coatings communicate your message, but they also send a message about the quality of your brand. Color, too, can dramatically increase open rates, making direct mail all that more powerful. In fact, many companies report higher open rates and response rates when using colored envelopes for their offers.

4. Make It Multisensory

Consumers are more likely to engage with a brand or have a more positive image of a brand when packaging creates a multi-sensory experience. The ability to feel and touch creates a connection between a brand and consumers. The same is true for direct mail pieces. Adding unique tactile effects (like the ‘double dimensional’ coating effect shown above) to a direct mail piece create an instant, almost unconscious, connection with the consumer.

Add life to your direct mail pieces by incorporating unique tactile elements from stocks, coatings or specialty treatments. With a wide variety of on-press and off-press treatments available, it’s simple to add tactile elements to direct mail. Sandpaper-like coatings, grit coatings, reticulation, embossing and other treatments can instantly breathe life into a direct mail piece and engage consumers.

5. Make It Interactive

Adding an element of interactivity to direct mail creative ensures that consumers will stop and engage with the piece itself. Leave behind flat pieces that don’t offer engagement opportunities for recipients to interact with your message and offer.

From unique slide-outs, pop-ups or 3D elements, interactivity enhances a direct mail piece’s ability to engage and intrigue. Other options like lenticular effects, scratch-offs and even sound chips offer consumers a reason to interact with your mailer. These interactive elements create an instant attraction that demand exploration and will ensure your brand and offers don’t go unnoticed.

Direct mail is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach. It has to feel personal to drive action. This doesn’t mean that every mailer has to be designed specifically for one customer or prospect, but each individual person is going to want to feel like it is. Not only does the mailer have to feel personal to the receiver, but it must also make the recipient feel exclusive.

From loyalty programs to welcome kits, personalization of direct mail is critical to make consumers valued. Whether it’s small touches of personalization such as embossing a recipient’s name or full-on personalization through specialty kits, making direct mail personal and exclusive increases response rates and strengthens brand loyalty.

Direct mail is far from being a thing of the past. A well-designed direct mail campaign can be the perfect vehicle for acquiring and retaining clients, no matter the industry. The key to success in direct mail marketing is to inject life into every mailer through innovative techniques that increase open rates, drive engagement and get responses.

Although investing even fractions of a penny more for new print or structural techniques may be out of the question, especially on tight budgets, the quality and impact of direct mail can make a world of a difference.

Working with the right print provider who can deliver on innovation, creativity, cutting-edge print technology and ingenuity, an average direct mail piece can be turned into a powerful vehicle for delivering your message and strengthening your brand. The best part is that this can often be achieved under budget.

Next time you’re planning a direct mail campaign, bring your mailers to life with unique structural elements, wise use of stocks, colors and coatings, and action-inspiring tactile elements for a multisensory experience.

Author: Michael DiFranco

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