Should Your Direct Mail Scream?


Should-your-direct-mail-screamJust because your direct mailing lands in someone’s mailbox doesn’t mean that it’s delivered. Sure, it may have arrived at the destination that’s on the address (which, by the way is important), but it hasn’t really accomplished anything, yet. It’s basically just paper and ink sitting in a mailbox.

Students of direct mail know that one of the primary functions of a direct mail piece is to get noticed. Your direct mail—whether it’s a letter, a package, a mailer, or a simple card—needs to grab the reader’s attention.

Does that mean your direct mail should scream? Should you do “whatever it takes” to get the attention of your prospective audience? Is a mailing that screams for attention good or bad?

That depends on a number of things. Is the product or service you’re offering something that warrants screaming about? And what about your audience? Are you attempting to get the attention of people who respond to that sort of approach?

If you’re publicizing a fun event or some kind of celebration, graphics and copy that are a little “loud” might be completely appropriate. That approach fits the tone of the event you’re promoting. As a matter of fact, if you didn’t shout a little bit, recipients might think you’re throwing a dull party. Being too subdued could actually work against you.

But what if you’re promoting something serious? What if you’re a custom homebuilder trying to get the attention of a potential homebuyer? Or what if you’re a retirement community wanting to interest someone in the services and care you can provide for an aging parent? Bright blazing colors and outlandish copy might grab your reader’s attention—but they might not create the impression you want.

That doesn’t mean your mailing has to be boring. It’s just that the graphics and copy need to be appropriate for the audience. Here’s another example, promoting the same thing (cars) but in very different ways.

If you are promoting a classic car show, your direct mailing can scream. It’s a fun event. People expect a classic car show to be loud and fun and exuberant. But if you’re promoting a high-end luxury vehicle, you’re going to want to grab attention in a different way. You’ll still want your mailing to stand out—but you need to keep your audience in mind. The luxury car buyer isn’t looking for a good time. He or she is looking to spend a lot of money on a vehicle that will meet his or her needs. Figure out what those needs are (Prestige? Safety? Convenience? Luxury? Exclusivity?), and find a way to use your images and copy to indicate how your vehicle delivers.

Think of the teaser copy on your mailer as the subject line in an email. What subject line would make you open and read the email? And which ones would cause you to send the message straight into the trash?

Should you direct mail scream? Sometimes it’s OK for mail to say, “HEY! LOOK AT ME!” But sometimes it’s important to be subtle—and irresistible. No matter what you put on the outside of your mailing, you’re communicating. Are you communicating the right message?

If you’re looking for more help in integrating your direct mail efforts with your other marketing channels, you’ll want to download our free Best Direct Mail Practices in an Evolving Marketplace eBook.

Direct Mail Best Practices