News and views to improve the strength and vigor of all your direct response marketing activity.

There are some questions that might remain with us forever:

  • Is Die Hard really a Christmas movie?
  • Pineapple on pizza: downright delicious or culinary hate crime?
  • Should the loose end of the toilet paper hang over or under the roll?
  • And …
  • Which gets better results: promotional or “official” outer envelopes?

First, let’s define our terms

By “promotional” envelopes, I’m referring to copy that uses headlines, subheads, and images to shout your message: “Save up to 50% with the world’s best (fill in the blank)!” Maybe this is on a jumbo envelope with a deliriously happy family saving money like you wouldn’t believe.

You see the company logo and tag line — there’s no doubt as to who is talking to you, and no doubt as to what they’re selling. So, if you’re in the market for that product or service, or intrigued by a good savings offer, you open it.

An “official” envelope is all business. It’s usually a #10, the standard-size business envelope, about 4 by 9.5 inches. It’s a workhorse. You probably receive hundreds of these a year. They may only have a return address, or sometimes the company name and address. No images, no big headlines save for maybe a copy line: “Important Information Inside.”

Maybe you see this #10 envelope and think: “Hey … what’s that? Is it from my bank? My credit card company? Do I owe someone money? Does someone owe me money?”

You go ahead and open it. Now, once you’re inside, you might see a more promotional brochure or letter. Or maybe it keeps that official tone throughout. Either way, that outer envelope (OE) did its job.

Remember: Every outer envelope is only 8 seconds from the trash bin

The person who picks up your envelope gives it about 8 seconds before they decide to open it or toss it in the trash. (Before catching themselves and relocating it to the recycle bin.) That’s a harsh reality, but a reality nonetheless.

Your OE is “the tip of the spear,” the first chance you get to make an impression. If it fails, it doesn’t matter how good your letter is, or what a gripping story your buckslip tells. (But hey, no pressure.) So what kind of spokesperson should you put out there?

Your promotional envelope, rockin’ it to the rafters.

Your official envelope, keepin’ it all biz.

Here are 5 things to consider before you send that brave little OE out into the world:

  • The brand, item, or service you’re promoting. Is it financial services, pet food, or a cruise line? Consider whether the product or service feels more official or promotional by its nature.
  • Your target demographic. Does their age/education level make them more likely to trust an official OE or a promotional OE?
  • The time of year. Is it the holidays or are you trying to get noticed during a busy political campaign season? You may need to be a bit “louder.”
  • Production time/budget. Will you have time in your schedule to print a colorful, jumbo envelope, or will you be limited to an “off-the-shelf” #10?
  • Competitors. What are they mailing and why? It’s always cheaper to benefit from someone else’s findings/failures before you commit to your format.

Additionally, things like paper and production costs, photos, etc., all factor into the cost you’ll pay per piece and will most likely sway your final decision on which envelope to use. You need to know if any additional costs will be sustainable and will offer a good return on investment (ROI) down the road.

You won’t know until you test

There are so many stories of the old Plain Jane #10 beating the glitzy pants off a promotional envelope that I don’t have time to go into them here. But let’s be fair — promotional envelopes have held their own, too. Back in the heyday of the 1980s, sweepstakes companies using “You may have already won $10,000,000!” on their promotional OEs were never going to switch to a white #10 that said, “Important Financial Information Inside.”

Your outer envelope is the tip of the spear, the first chance you get to make an impression. If it fails, it doesn’t matter how good your letter is, or what a gripping story your buckslip tells.

Bottom line? You won’t know what works for you until you test. Most clients use a simple A/B split test, dividing their mailing list in half between the two outer envelopes. The inside contents need to be the same for the sake of accuracy.

Send out your OEs, and you’ll get your answers. But even then, you need to consider if any lift in response is worth the added expense of a larger format, additional pricing costs, added image costs, etc.

I’ll be looking for your next winning envelope

Good luck with your testing! I know you’ll nail down an approach that works for you. And whether your envelope is “whispering” or “shouting,” I hope the results are loud and clear. In the meantime, DMW is here to help. We’re a full-service Medicare marketing agency, connecting with the 65-plus population for over 40 years, with some client relationships lasting over 20 years. Reach out. We’d love to partner with you on your next project.