For years direct mail experts have talked about the three pillars that are responsible for direct mail success: Your list; your offer; and your creative. And while the conventional wisdom is that your list and your offer each account for 40 percent of your mailing’s success, the 20 percent that your creative efforts shoulder is too big to overlook.
But what does “creative” really mean when it comes to direct mail? For some people, “creative” sounds like all the fun stuff: Images, colors, fonts, copy, etc. Being creative with direct mail, however, isn’t necessarily about being clever, or cute, or outrageous. Creative doesn’t exist for its own sake. It’s there to serve the list and the offer.
The job of creative (whether it’s the design, the illustrations, the headlines, the teasers, or the copy) is to capture the big idea and communicate it in a way that gets through to the audience—and moves them to action.
Of course you want your direct mailing to be noticed. But does that mean it needs to be splashy or that your direct mail should scream? Not necessarily. It’s OK to have a mailer that says: “Listen to me!” but then that mailer better have something to say.
The real challenge of creative in direct mail is not only to get noticed, but (more importantly) to get the main message across clearly in such a way that whoever reads it is moved to do something. In a way, it’s a bit like playing a game of Pictionary. It’s not always the person who can draw the best that wins. It’s the person who can present the idea in a creative way—in a way that someone else can understand—that wins.
Fun illustrations and clever headlines are fine if they accomplish that. But more often than not, true creativity means putting yourself in your audiences’ shoes and addressing the things they want to know about. What are their problems? What are their concerns? What are their pain points? If you can convince your audience that you understand their problem, they are much more likely to listen to your proposed solution.
When you’re doing creative for direct mail, it’s more about solving a puzzle than putting on a show. Can you have fun with it? Sure! Can you make it entertaining? Of course—as long as entertaining doesn’t get in the way of the message. Sometimes, however, being creative isn’t all fun and games. Sometimes it’s just hard work—coming up with a new way to help people understand your message.