The late, great Bill Jayme defined the direct-mail envelope as “your headline.” Other mailing practitioners shy away from such candor—to the extent of dropping every envelope element but the addressing area. Still others jam their envelopes with copy.
What works best?
The classic envelope evolved through years of testing by Jayme and his graphics partner, Heiki Ratalahti, was a 6" X 9" package with two windows—one for the addressing device and the other for a token/involvement device—plus a strong headline.
Their headlines usually did not express the mailing’s offer. Instead, they made a provocative statement bouncing obliquely off the offer, such as the justly famous line, for PSYCHOLOGY TODAY magazine, “Do you close the bathroom door even when you’re the only one home?”
Alternatively, some mailers elect to use “chaste” closed-face envelopes without windows or corner cards—and even “written” addressing areas.
The contents of such mailings often are “reprints” of magazine or newspaper articles, with Post-It™-like notes to the tune of “You really should look into this!” attached.
Proponents of the technique assert that recipients—especially if their past behavior means that they receive bushels of mail—are so gun-shy about “junk mail” that they will not open the envelopes and read the message.
Opponents say that the gimmick is inherently treacherous, thus interferes with the believability of the mailing package.
Another mailing faction opts to use the envelope surface to blare the offer as loudly as possible. Sweepstakes mailings often do it, for example.
Proponents say that readership of a low-interest offer—for which sweepstakes often are enticements—benefits from the urgency of a complete exploitation of the envelope surface.
Critics insist that recipients of such mailings are likely to discard their pieces unread, since they assume that a glance at the envelope gives them all the information they need or want.
Which of these three alternatives is right? All of them, and none. The only way to determine which technique would work for you is to test. So don’t take any point of view as Holy Writ. Test, test, test!
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