A heavy direct mail package that pulls its weight

Recently, a very heavy direct mail package for a credit card offer was given to me for my ‘swipe file’. It might seem like the typical package; #10 size plain blind envelope, letter, inserts, BRE (Business reply Envelope). Boring, ZZZZZzzzzzzz, same old thing. But there was something different about this package worth sharing. It used the two interactive qualities often overlooked by direct marketers: bulk and weight.

Daring to go heavier when others are cutting back

In today’s age of cutting costs in direct mail, a heavy direct mail package is unusual. Usually a heavy package is reserved for high-end packages with lots of production and first class rate. This package made smart use of the cheaper standard rate postage rate for up to three ounces, and didn’t go light on the interior pieces. It was much heavier in my hand and stood out from all the other samples of mail that day. Win!

How many times do we mail a package standard rate, thinking only of the cheaper postage compared to first class? If we forget that we have three times the weight to work with, we miss the chance to make a big impression by keeping our production economical.

A simple, cheap-to-mail, hard to overlook package

Here’s what was in the outer envelope:

  • Personalized one-side letter with reply device
  • #9 reply envelope
  • Four full-color, 11×17 inserts, folded to letter-size. They were all printed on mid/heavy weight coated stock. And each focused on a different benefit such as:
    • Convenience and Confidence of the VISA Card
    • Anytime, anywhere access with exclusive mobile and online tools
    • Larger credit line with bonus rewards
    • Credit score monitoring service

None of these full-color pieces were personalized with recipient name or other information that is typical of highly personalized packages today, so the creators saved money and complexity of matching multiple pieces down to the person on the letter.

The inserts of the heavy direct mail packageEach insert had a small code visible on the outside of the each folded piece, and if there were a larger pool of inserts, customization of the direct mail creative messaging could be accomplished by mixing and matching different combinations of inserts to meet the demographics of the audience, down to the recipient level. Rather than rely on personalization via use of names or PURLs, creating a custom mix of inserts offers personalization based on area of interest.

The weight of ELEVEN quarters demands attention

The combination of four large inserts, plus the letter with reply device and BRE (Business Reply Envelope), weighed in at a hefty 2.2 ounces. Per the US Mint, that is equal to the weight of 11 US Quarters.  That is a LOT of weight in the hand, and they mailed it for 21 cents.

The outside envelope was plain and may had no tease line. But the package’s weight inside of a plain outer envelope was a reminder that a package can be just as attention-getting using weight instead of graphics, special finishing or tear-away perfs or panels.

Like many other direct marketers, my clients are always battling between costs, complexity, and creative that will create impact and lead to improved response.

This bank used minimally personalized pieces but still results in a package customized to the recipient though the combination of inserts.

In many ways it’s less complex to produce process a package that only has one piece that is personalized, and inserts that are sorted into general categories. Instead of relying on personalization processes via inkjet or laser across several pieces, this package kept things simpler, but went big on scale of components.

Standard Rate PostageBy using the Presorted Standard Postage rate, the sender was able to take advantage of up to 3 ounces for their money. The resulting weight, and the use of multiple pieces in the envelope also made for key elements direct marketing professionals look for in direct mail package creative execution:

  • High impact that gets noticed immediately (the heavy weight)
  • Curiosity that leads the recipient to open the envelope and look inside
  • Messaging that targets areas of interest or pain for the recipient
  • Longer engagement using components and content that can be explored in stages selected by the reader

Heavy Direct Mail Package = More time in hand = more engagement

More time in the reader’s hands means more engagement, which leads to a higher response. I am not privy to the ROI or final performance of this heavy direct mail package, but the creative team capitalized on the the allowable postage weight in a way that is unique and unexpected. That heavier weight and bulk, and multiple interior elements, gives this package the ability to give the recipient a deeper sensory experience. It adds up to an unexpected execution that stands out.

This is the kind of package worth remembering the next time you’re faced with producing a package that has the limits of standard postage and production, but needs to get attention. While you may feel stuck with a #10 size, and blind envelope outer, don’t forget that often-overlooked dimension a heavy direct mail package can bring up.

In my career I learned how tactile elements like paper finish, package weight, even the measurements of an envelope, can have on lifting interaction and response. From super-large cover stock envelopes down through monarch packages on laid papers, the way a package feels in the recipient’s hands contributes to the first impression. If the feel of a package doesn’t stand out, even the greatest outer envelope tease lines can go overlooked.


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I'm a creative problem-solver helping clients who use Direct Marketing but need more effective lead generation and deeper customer relationships. You can learn more about me on LinkedIn.