Modernizing Direct Mail

In the age of insta influencers and digital natives, direct mail is often overlooked as an effective advertising tool. You might be surprised to find that market trends suggest direct mail is back in a big way! Don’t believe me? Have you checked your mail lately?

Direct mail is a big part of what we do for our clients, so my art direction is based on a mix of experience, best practices and market trends. That being said, I am always sourcing inspiration from my own mailbox. Most of the mail that stands out to me falls into one of two camps: “traditional direct mail” and “pretty mail”.

Is traditional good?

When I say traditional direct mail, I’m talking about the stuff that often ends up in your recycling bin because it didn’t look important enough to read. Or it relied on a “trick” to get opened. The unfortunate thing about this mail is the opportunity lost because of how the information is presented. When I get this kind of mail I’m often left wondering, “Where am I supposed to be looking?” Because when everything is designed to be loud and stand out, nothing does.

Another fail of what I’m calling traditional direct mail is creative strategy (and design). It’s not pretty. I mean truly, it’s not intended to be visually pleasing. In fact, there’s an old DM adage about how “ugly works”! The notion that ugly, antiquated designs always work seems to imply that pretty pieces never work. In fact, some people have the perception that direct mail has to be ugly in order to be effective.

I’m here to tell you that is simply not true. But to be honest, I can see why people might think that.

Is pretty good?

Recently I received a piece of direct mail from a creative software company (whose products I use every day). I had never received physical mail from them before, and was really excited to see what they had sent me. Upon opening the letter I was a little disappointed … okay, a lot disappointed. It was well formatted, and certainly fell into the “pretty”—if not “beautiful mail” —category, but it was not hard-working at all. How do I know? I don’t remember what the letter was about. Was it an exciting new offer? An invite to an exclusive event? Were they writing to inform me of some creative breakthrough? Unclear. There was a lot of information on the page and it was visually pleasing, but without the appropriate hierarchy and strategy it was just words and design on a page—lacking intent!

Capturing the moment.

To be clear, pretty mail doesn’t have to be ineffective, and traditional mail doesn’t have to be ugly.

The great news is, that when our audience goes to the mailbox they are there to be sure they aren’t missing out on anything. And let’s face it, no one is throwing out the mail without first giving it a minimum cursory view. People are going to at least look at our mail. So, it’s up to us to pick the right strategy—and present information in the right ways to get them to do what we want.

One very consistent (and very appreciated) compliment we receive from our clients is that we’ve modernized our direct mail creative. Not only does it look good, it drives performance.

Want to start modernizing your direct mail? Let’s talk!