As you work on putting together your direct mail piece, one designer shares his rules. Some of them may be valid for you, others maybe not. We just want to get you started.
From: Design Elements: A Graphic Style Manual by Timothy Samara
- Have a concept
- Communicate don’t decorate
- Speak with one visual voice
- Use two typefaces maximum
- Show one thing first
- Pick colors on purpose
- If you can do more with less, do it.
- Negative space is magical
- Treat type as image
- Keep type friendly
- Be universal, it’s not about you
- Squish and separate: create rhythms in density and openness
- Firecrackers and rising sun: distribute light and dark
- Be decisive
- Measure with your eyes
- Make what you need; don’t scavenge
- Ignore fashion
- Move it! Static equals dull
- Look to history, but don’t repeat it
- Symmetry is not good
We found some ideas about postcard design at this site from Chuck Green on Ideabook.com.
What is the purpose of a post card?
“Greetings from” and rotating racks decorated with pictures of places great and small—those are the type of messages associated with post cards. The marketing potential of a simple card is unbounded. You can show something such as a photograph of a new product, a remodeled showroom or the impressive gear you use to provide your service. You can double your advertising impact by sending cards to your mailing list with a reprint of your magazine ad. Send a reminder of an upcoming event. Ask for an appointment and follow up with a phone call. Step one? Establish a clear mission for your card.
Why is it done the way it’s done
Why are post cards designed the way they are? For reasons of cost and contact. First, since private postal cards were authorized by Congress in the late 1800’s, they have been the among the least expensive way to put a printed piece in the hands of your prospect. And because a standard post card can’t be smaller than 3 1/2 by 5 inches or larger than 4 1/4 by 6 inches it is easy to handle, sort, and deliver. Plus, the design improves your odds of making contact. A post card message is out in the open, eliminating the real possibility your prospect might toss a sealed envelope.
If cost is less important than impact, you may spend a few cents more to mail a card up to 6 1/8 by 11 1/2 inches—a size that demands more attention.
How can You do it most effectively?
With your mission and a strategy established, the challenge is to execute effectively. Let’s say you have a list of a few hundred prospects with whom you hope to establish a relationship. You could use the shotgun approach and run a series of ads in a local publication that you hope they might see. Or you could pinpoint your prospects by printing a half dozen series of post cards, each featuring a different advantage of doing business with you, and mail them, one each month for the next six months. Which would be more effective?
Start with these post card ideas and create your own variations, see more information about postcards.
- Bust the size barrier. Once you exceed the 4 1/4 by 6 inch maximum for a standard-sized card, you may as well take advantage of the 6 1/8 by 11 1/2 inch maximum. You’ll pay extra to mail it, but this super-sized format allows more dramatic graphics and a more detailed message.
- Request a response. Every good marketing piece has a specific call to action. Why not ask your prospect to respond on the spot? This post card has two missions—first, to request some survey information. The “How’d we do?” half is detached and returned to the sender by business reply mail. The second half, labeled “Keep this card by your phone,” is a way to keep the company’s name in front of the customer. The postage for this 2-card format may be higher, but the added value can be well worth it.
- Work the cliche. The old-fashioned picture post card is a theme you can use to your advantage. This design plays on what you expect a post card to be. But what looks like a souvenir from a museum is actually an announcement from a restaurant. A painting by the Impressionist Monet graces one side, the message, set in elegant type is opposite.
- Make contact. The reason direct mail is all dressed up with fonts and graphics is because it wasn’t long ago letters and cards were mostly handwritten—fancy type and pictures were something different. Today, the opposite true? Don’t you pay special attention to a handwritten message? The idea here is to print a supply of post cards on which you can jot down messages that keep you in the front of your customer’s mind.
- Create a ticket. When you use a post card as a discount coupon or a ticket to an event, you raise the possibility of a response. The message here is obvious—bring the card in and get a discount.
- Publish a mystery. You may have seen this technique used on billboards—pieces are added one at a time until, one day, you drive by and discover the total message. The same type of mystery message can be posted and solved in a series of post cards. You simply divide the finished message into puzzle pieces and sent them in sequence. In most cases, the cost of printing cards drops substantially when you print several different designs at the same time—you may be surprised to find how practical this possibility is.
- Make news. Post cards are great for spreading the news. Next time a new captain takes the wheel, you move to a new location, announce a product, or add a new service—publish the news by post card.
Target Marketing Magazine included some great tips and considerations for creative planning as a part of suggestions for campaign planning meetings. We want to help you think about these as you plan your Direct Marketing.
Remember, an offer can be a full-price product with special value.
- Why was it created?
- What problem will it solve for your customer?
- What are we asking the customer to do?
- What is the overall strategy?
- What are the goals in terms of response rate or overall sales, and how is the offer going to help reach those goals?
- Who is getting this piece, and what is his relationship to your company? The message that you send to a customer should be drastically different from the message you send to a prospect, who may not even know who you are.
- Think about the individual person behind the demographics. What will motivate him? What is his attitude toward what you are selling?
- What key words can you use to speak directly to his needs?
- Your brand isn’t your logo; it’s the consumer’s perception of your company. How can you remind—or for a prospect, introduce—the recipient of your unique point of differentiation?
- How can you prove that you are delivering on your brand promise?
- What words and visual cues can you use to reiterate your brand?
- What is the format, and why was it chosen? This is especially important to explore when using a solo package including multiple components. Explore each component, discussing the hierarchy of each piece.
- Can the format be improved? Your production manager may be able to explain important options and opportunities as ideas are generated.
- What visuals will help grab attention and quickly explain your offer?
- Where are the hot spots in your format, and how will you use them to your advantage?
- How will you exploit an offer and make sure it is seen?
- How many times will the offer be repeated and where?
- How will the recipient process the piece—what will he look at first? If it’s a mailing, how will the envelope entice him to open it? If it’s a postcard or e-mail, how will you identify or introduce yourself at a glance and answer for the consumer, “What’s in it for me?”
- What copy will intrigue the reader the most?
- How much copy will be required and at what ratio to images?
- How can you show value in every product? Is it necessary to include additional insets or callouts to showcase benefits?
- Review the creative and production schedules: Who will work on the piece first; who will work on it second?
- What is the proofing and editing process?
- Together, create a list of must-haves: phone number, URL, fax and registered trademarks.
- Are multiple versions necessary to accommodate different
There is no guarantee that your project will run smoothly from beginning to end, but with the right planning—an understanding of the offer, audience, brand position, format and creative strategy —you have a head start. Take the time to talk through all of these points before the design process begins, and your program will generate better results.
Target Marketing Magazine published a great article a couple of years ago about how readers eyes move around a mail piece. We all do this so many times without thinking.
A hot spot is where your eye goes first when you look at a postcard, outer envelope, catalog spread, direct mail letter, space ad or even an e-mail.
Most of us had our first experience with hot spots in elementary school when we looked for easy ways to study for tests. We wanted to pick out key points to review without reading entire chapters. What did we do?
We looked at chapter titles, subheads, terms in boldface type, maps, charts, graphs, photos, and the captions under them. In other words, we looked at hot spots. From this experience, we’ve trained ourselves to look for eye-grabbing design and copy elements. We use these signs for scanning copy and deciding whether or not we’ll read the rest. Here are 10 things every direct mail writer, designer and approving manager should know about hot spots; nine tips for putting these road signs in action; and six techniques to avoid.
What You Need to Know
- All formats have hot spots. This applies to postcards, self-mailers, letters, envelopes, brochures, order forms, catalogs, e-mail, space ads and even buck slip inserts.
- Some hot spots are innate to the direct mail component in which they’re found, such as the return address on an outer envelope or the saluation or P.S. in a letter. (Did you know 30 percent of the people read the P.S. first?)
- Other hot spots are created to capture and direct the reader’s attention, such as the dot-whack teaser on an outer envelope or corner slash on a catalog cover.
- Outer envelope hot spots include: corner card/return address in the upper left-hand corner, addressing, postage, teaser copy on front or back and the back flap.
- A checklist of letter hot spots include: letterhead/masthead, salutation, first sentence, first paragraph, Johnson box area in the upper-right corner, last paragraph, signature and title, P.S., P.P.S., P.P.P.S., copy underlined or indented, bulleted, or boldface copy, indented subheads, and handwriting in the margins.
- Hot spots are useful for controlling eye flow. For example, if someone reads only three things in your letter, which three things do you want him to read? And how can you use hot spots to make sure they get read?
- You have three seconds or less to grab your reader’s attention; hot spots are critical for quickly getting the reader involved in your mail piece.
- Direct mail designers use type fonts and sizes, background colors, borders, violators, copy placement, images, callouts and other graphic tools to create hot spots.
- Direct mail writers create compelling hot-spot copy using the words “you” or “free”, customer testimonials, major benefits, strong calls to action, action verbs at the start of sentences and headlines, and other direct response techniques.
- Hot spots are a team effort; writers and designers need to work together to make them effective.
Hot Spots in Action
- Add a person or group of people to the photo of your office building or store, and you’ll transform the photo into a more interesting hot spot. The eye naturally is drawn to photos that include people or human elements, such as hands, feet or eyes.
- Double the impact of photos by adding captions. When your reader looks at a photo, he or she looks below the photo for a caption. Use captions to highlight major benefits, focus on points of competitive differentiation or provide a strong call to action.
- Create hot spots that break up long copy by using headlines, and subheads, photo captions, bullets, violators, testimonials, sidebar stories, charts, icons drawing attention to phone numbers and URLs and callouts. Rarely is a letter, brochure, insert or order form read from top to bottom, start to finish. Readers look for copy interests them in bite-size pieces.
- Use hot spots on response devices to restate benefits, showcase your guarantee, restate the call to action and response options, provide methods of payment, and offer shipping options.
- State and restate major benefits in hot spots so your benefit story won’t get overlooked.
- Position your major benefit at the beginning of a sentence, paragraph or headline. Don’t bury it in the middle.
- Do not color-coordinate every component in your mailing. Instead, use a bright yellow free gift insert or fluorescent-orange burst to highlight a customer testimonial in your letter.
- Use hot spots appropriately. They don’t necessarily have to be big or bold. For example, the salutation of a letter doesn’t need to be large, colorful or even personalized to draw the readers eye to draw the readers eye to it. It’s a natural hot spot. However, it does need to be appropriately accurate to establish a rapport between the individual receiving and the person signing the letter. Used appropriately, “Dear Friend” and “Dear Preferred Customer” can both be equally effective. Be very careful with “Dear Sir” it is not appropriate or effective with women.
- Use hot spots strategically to gently move the reader’s eye from one place to another. Don’t fill your outer envelope with bright bursts of copy and expect it to get read. Too much of a good thing is not a good idea.
Words of Caution
As much as hot spots encourage scanners to become readers, there also are techniques that stifle readership. In most cases, you want to avoid:
- dense copy blocks filled with long sentences;
- large amounts of copy in difficult-to-read red or reversed-out type;
- long headlines in all caps;
- gray-screened backgrounds for copy;
- body copy in smaller than 10-point type and/or in sans serif type; and
- justified copy that creates odd word spacing.
How else can we inspire you to lead your readers eyes with Direct Mail?