Category: Uncategorized

How To Elevate Your Virtual Conferences with Innovative Mailers

Listen — by now, we’re all pretty sick and tired of traditional old Zoom calls. Connectivity issues, disjointed conversations… It’s no wonder National Geographic is publishing studies on the effects of “Zoom fatigue.”

But this past year has also shown us just how useful and convenient virtual engagement can be. Whether it’s working from home or attending far-off gatherings, the benefits of video communications have never been clearer.

Juggling these two realities beckons a difficult question: How do we harness the power of online meetings without succumbing to Zoom gloom?

Perhaps no one needs such a virtual solution more than the trade shows industry

Unsurprisingly, Covid-19 had a serious impact on all sectors that rely on mass attendance and travel. And in the world of trade shows and business conferences, that impact was palpable.

In June 2020, for instance, over 70 percent of B2B executives stated that they’d canceled an event. Another report noted that the $15 billion trade show industry was likely to take its biggest financial hit of all time.

With their backs against the wall, conference organizers turned to video. In it, they found a solution that isn’t just a temporary stopgap; it’s a door to untapped possibilities.

Sure, virtual events sacrifice some networking ability… But that negative is offset by an exponential increase in accessibility. Remote capabilities negate the need for travel, and the ability to record is a godsend for anyone facing schedule conflicts. The bottom line here is greater reach and, in turn, wider impact.

Plus, early returns on virtual conferences are showing that they’re actually no less effective in creating leads. As such, it’s no stretch to imagine that new-age trade shows will be defined by a reduction in in-person attendance alongside a corresponding rise in online attendance.

… Especially when you have the tools to make those online experiences memorable.

At Structural Graphics, we’ve spent the past year-plus developing such tools

Our goal is simple: Transcend the monotony of your average Zoom conferences and forgettable collateral mailers. We want to create an interactive experience — one that does your brand justice.

Most notably, we’ve developed virtual trade show booths that essentially mimic the in-person sensation. In some instances, such actually fold out with panels that hold small video screens with your chosen content. In others, those panels contain augmented reality tags, QR codes and NFC tags that launch the virtual experience right on your phone.

In either case, these unique dimensional mailers can immediately bring your viewers to relevant online resources. You get every benefit from a trade show interaction — without having to compete with neighboring booths for attention.

And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Depending on your needs, we can tailor the virtual experience and accompanying materials to fit. For instance, we’ve recently partnered with a number of healthcare marketers on:

  • Interactive invitations — Eye-popping first impressions that cultivate curiosity in the short-term and transform into desktop mainstays that build brand recognition in the long-term.
  • Information kits — Helpful step-by-step guides to preparing for, logging into, and participating in any sort of virtual affair.
  • Interactive elements — Any sort of resources to accompany the main event, from quizzes to polls to follow-along materials.
  • Classic takeaways — All the goodies you’d normally accumulate at a trade show, including t-shirts, swag, snacks, and presentation materials.

See them in action here and give us a shout to see how we can make your next virtual conference come to life!

Dimensional Mail: Your Solution to the Rising Costs of Digital Marketing

With Digital becoming the standard marketing avenue, companies are pouring more of their resources into social, video, and written content to captivate their audiences. Even compared to last year, 2021 should see 12% more digital ad spend — up to 55% of all advertising spending.

As a result, we’ve reached a state of digital marketing overwhelm. What used to be a blue sea of opportunity has now become red with competition.

And on top of this market saturation, we also have to deal with steadily increasing ad costs. (Just consider how once-affordable Instagram has risen in ad cost since being acquired by Facebook). But with online click-through rates falling, wasted ad spend is crippling marketing budgets across industries.

Putting these factors together, we’re now at a point where we have to question the viability of digital marketing. So here’s our new marketing conundrum: How to effectively stand out from all the noise in an ROI-friendly manner?

Want high engagement? Then direct dimensional mail’s your best friend

Naturally, that’s our answer here — and with good reason. Traditionally, direct mail has pulled in considerably higher open rates and response rates than digital. 

HomeWorks Energy Pop Up Mailer

The reality is that despite our increasingly digital tendencies, physical mailers tend to cultivate more trust and emotional reactions. (With the recent prevalence of data privacy issues online, perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise). When readers can hold something, experience it with multiple senses, and give it their undivided, non-scrolling attention, the result is a greater impact. Greater impact equals longer-lasting recall. And for our purposes, longer recall is what drives the sales we so covet.

And lest we forget, we’ve so far been concerned only with traditional direct mail — which has an average response rate of 4.4%. That’s impressive compared to email’s 0.12% figure, but it’s completely overshadowed by dimensional direct mail which sees a staggering average response rate of 8.5%! With its heightened focus on quality and engagement, dimensional mail undoubtedly lies at the top of the “effectiveness” food chain for direct mail.

And the kicker is, dimensional mail is only getting more effective

Consider USPS’s deep-dive study that pinpoints three notable areas of improvement in the direct mail landscape:

  1. Targeting well-defined audiences with relevant marketing
  2. Tracking the long- and short-term metrics of campaigns
  3. Working hand-in-hand with omnichannel campaigns (and even driving digital traffic!)

These three bullet points have traditionally been digital’s biggest advantages over print. But now, as intelligent innovations develop, that gap is closing.

At Structural Graphics, for our part, we’ve been integrating these industry-shifting innovations into high-impact dimensional mailers. The result is an unprecedented combination of new-age data capabilities and enticing visual and tactile designs. Here’s what they look like:

USPS SleekPeeks® VR Viewer

So here’s the bottom line: We’ve long known that dimensional mail is as powerful as it gets from an engagement standpoint. And its rapid integration of technological developments is only further boosting that effectiveness.

Meanwhile, digital channels are as crowded as ever, with returns diminishing at a steady pace. Marketing here is cheaper than via direct, sure, but the ROI simply isn’t what it used to be.

And that’s why we’re so high on dimensional direct mail: If you actually want to inspire engagement and cultivate meaningful customer relationships… It really is a no-brainer.

Keep Your Brand Top of Mind with Dimensional Print

The magic starts from the moment they open the mail. And it lasts until… well, even months into the future. 

That’s the power of creative dimensional mail — if done right. But here’s what “done right” looks like from start to finish:

It opens with an unforgettable first impression

The mail we receive on a regular basis doesn’t tend to inspire much excitement, right? That’s why we put such a premium on making that first impression unique — to capture attention and invite engagement.

Unsurprisingly, studies back this up: Direct mail is praised for delivering open rates as high as 90%. And under this direct mail umbrella, dimensional leads the first-impression pack; when people receive something that immediately appears out of the ordinary, they can’t help but indulge their curiosity.

For instance, here at Structural Graphics, we partnered with global luxury brand agency Hudson Rouge, in collaboration with Maker House, to create a sleek foil-stamped package containing a hardcover welcome book for new Lincoln vehicles. To truly capture the Lincoln brand and wow the viewer, the books outer edge lit up in LED lights when opened — mimicking their cars lighting up when unlocked. Best yet, when the book is removed, thin speakers in the box automatically play a custom composition by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Now, have you ever seen anything like that before? We’ll bet that those Lincoln customers hadn’t, and we’ll bet they weren’t quick to forget it.

Once they’re hooked, it’s all about engagement and response

The Lincoln book’s elegant, lit-up appearance may have been the invitation, but the music inside was the real party. So once they’re in, you want to continue cultivating an experience for the recipient. And the best experience is one that they participate in; dimensional mail’s greatest strength is that it’s not a one-way street.

For starters, people appreciate that direct mail lets them engage on their own time, at their own pace. One study found that direct mail remains in homes for 17 days on average. And in that 17 days, your mailer is much more likely to make an impression than any email; print ads can have recall rates 30% higher than digital. 

But we’re not just talking about any print ads. We’re talking about the most innovative designs, sent straight to the reader’s door. Get this: Average direct mail’s response rate of 4.4% easily trumps email’s 0.12%… But dimensional mail makes both look like child’s play, with a staggering 8.5% response rate of its own!

Point being: There’s no better tool for engaging your audience. And no tool is as safe a bet for high ROI.

And we’re not done yet: Dimensional mail has unmatched shelf life

People throw out mail. If you’re lucky, they skim through it and then toss it. What else would they do?

Well, if you give them a rare reason to keep it, they just might. Take this self-standing popper we made for Uniti. This nifty piece of dimensional mail shares a message promoting community education. And with its eye-catching diorama and light scheme, it’s quite easy to leave standing on one’s desk for long-lasting impact.

Or how about something that offers long-term value without a self-standing setup. Here’s a recruitment brochure we made for UC Riverside to share vital enrollment information. With pop-up graphics and fold-out panels containing useful resources, UC Riverside gave students every reason to keep the card for future reference and even share it with other friends applying to college.

And that’s yet another feather in dimensional mail’s cap! It creates an experience that’s not only memorable (and in some cases long-lasting), but it also begs to be shared.

Which brings us full circle: Dimensional mail “done right” is a branding home run — from the first impression, through the experience of the mailer, and into its next life as a desktop ornament.


4 Easy Steps to Design a Piece on Red Paper Plane

Are you a small business or solo entrepreneur? Do you need a marketing piece turned around quickly in order to meet a deadline? Do you want your piece to be of high quality but not for it to cost a fortune?

Have you heard about RedPaperPlane.com?

Red Paper Plane is the online ordering division of Structural Graphics. It provides clients with an easy and intuitive way to design the high-impact formats we’ve become known for, including pop-up cubes, greeting cards and the Flapper. And you don’t need to be a professional designer to do it! Using our online design tool, anyone can customize the direct mail formats with their logo, photos and text in a fraction of the time it used to take to place art to one of our templates offline.

Just follow these four simple steps:

  1. Choose your format.
  2. Download the template.
  3. Upload your artwork.
  4. Proof and order!

Whether you’re an experienced designer, a marketing professional or a small business owner, Red Paper Plane has created an online experience with your needs in mind.

Strategies for Using Customer Testimonials in Your Marketing Content

Customer reviews and testimonials matter… a lot.

In today’s world of social media influencers, Yelp, TripAdvisor and Amazon, we look for and act on the recommendations of others when it comes to all areas of our life, but specifically when it comes to making a purchasing decision.

In fact, according to Nielsen research, 92 percent of people will “trust a recommendation from a peer” and 70 percent will trust a recommendation from “someone they don’t even know.”

And while these recommendations can come in many forms, testimonials are a great way to establish your brand’s credibility and to sell your product to consumers. The one key difference between testimonials and other word-of-mouth and third-party reviews is that they are sought and selected by you, the marketer. This gives you greater control over what is said and how it is displayed.

But how can you get a great testimonial?

The short answer to this question is that you must ask. Approach your best customers individually and personalize the request with the person’s name, the product he or she purchased as well as any other information that might be relevant. It’s also smart to approach recent customers – maybe some you’re just beginning to form relationships with – as a way to both follow up on the work you did or the project you sold and to get their honest opinion while the purchase is still fresh in their minds.

Next, you must ask the right questions. Don’t just ask for a “testimonial”. Be specific in your request. Ideally, your objective is to extract examples of how your product or service has benefited them. You can do this by asking questions like:

  • How much money did our product save you?
  • What’s the biggest benefit you’ve seen as a result of using our product?
  • What made you choose us/ our product?
  • Do you have any ROI feedback as to how successful the piece was at reaching your target market?

Make sure to provide a guideline for the customer or client. Not only does this help you control the response, but it also increases the probability that he or she will respond to you since you’ve made the process more manageable by outlining it with questions.
Once you have a nice pool of responses, make sure to edit them properly – this is a testimonial, not an essay. Edit out any irrelevant chatter (if it’s a video) or unnecessary sentences (if it’s a written response) to keep the focus on information that’s going to help potential customers overcome objections and decide to purchase.

When you have a few strong testimonials you’re pleased with, the next and possibly most important part is that you use it strategically. After all, a testimonial is no help if your customers don’t see it. Consider adding them to your website, email blasts or case studies. Furthermore, experimenting with paid ads or using shorter testimonials on social media can also drive traffic to your website and, eventually, convert followers into customers.

3 Ways Intelligent Marketers Use VR

Have you been thinking about incorporating virtual reality into your next campaign? Gartner predicts that virtual reality marketing is positioned at a vital transition point. The New York Times recently distributed more than one million Cardboard Viewers to Sunday print subscribers and Google Cardboard has been downloaded roughly 10 million times.

If it’s your first time experimenting with how VR can transform your business, here are a few tips to help ensure your message (and your brand) resonates.

Think mobile.

Rather than creating long-form narratives or experiences that require users to sit with a cumbersome headset on their heads, consider shorter, more digestible content for today’s consumer. VR headsets are getting lighter, sleeker and have replaced built-in screens with smartphones.

Creating short-form branded experiences that can easily be shared can get people interested in what you have to offer.

Recognize that storytelling still matters.

Like with all of your marketing efforts, VR should be chosen because it’s the best medium to tell your brand’s particular story. With technology, people like to get wrapped up in whatever is new and trendy, and often forget that the content is still the driving force behind its success.

Avoid falling into the trap of believing you can produce anything for VR and have it meet your marketing objectives. Rather, create branded content specifically formatted to fit the platform and consider how both will help you to move the needle.

Don’t forget the other senses.

The truly compelling part of using VR is that it can create a world that isn’t really there. It’s virtual. And while visual content is often the focus for most companies’ marketing teams, it shouldn’t be the only one.

The best marketers determine how to engage multiple senses, whether it’s Marriott incorporating the sound of waves to their virtual beachside getaway or Game of Thrones blasting cool air, creating the feeling users were being hoisted up 700 feet to the top of the Wall at Castle Black.

The introduction of inexpensive virtual reality headsets has made it possible for brands to deliver the ultimate experience to consumers. Structural Graphics offers virtual reality headsets that ship flat, assemble in seconds, and are fully customizable! Our SleekPeeks VR Viewers provide a complete immersive experience, sturdy design and high quality lenses. Click here to try one for yourself!

With New iOS 11, Device Can Read Codes Natively

We’ve already debunked the notion that QR codes are dead, but with last month’s arrival of the new iOS 11, it looks like this rumor has been officially put to rest.

What’s a QR Code?

QR codes are unique graphics that link to a website, landing page or other information source. Previously, in order to scan the code and access the data associated with it, iOS users would need to download an app specializing in reading QR codes.

About that iOS 11 everyone’s been talking about…

Among the new features Apple announced, the new iOS allows iPhone 7 and above cameras to read QR codes natively. With the software update, the device’s camera app can read the code and displays the data automatically in a pop-up notification. No app download required.

While this feature is new for iOS, it isn’t entirely unheard of. Google’s Chrome on iOS launched an in-app QR code scanner earlier this year and social media users may be familiar with SnapChat’s “snapcodes” which allow users to easily scan and follow others.

Check out this Forbes article to learn more about the new iOS 11 and 25 of its “secret” features.

How does this affect me?

Well, if you’re an iOS user, the capability to natively read QR codes allows you a way to connect your mobile device with the real world in real-time. Think about it. By using these codes you can: verify the goods you’re purchasing online are not counterfeit, send and receive contact information with a single click, learn more about a company or product, access directions and more.

But it’s also a powerful marketing tool, too. Because users can now have more convenient access to hidden content, this opens to door to fun guerrilla tactics, interactive print displays or more effective experiential marketing for businesses and brands around the world. For instance, we can imagine seeing a QR code in a comic book to promote the new Wonder Woman movie or a treasure hunt sponsored by a travel company with QR codes leading participants to the next clue.

How Marketers and AR Can Work Hand-in-Hand

Augmented reality is quickly blossoming into a marketing trend that not only allows users to access information virtually, but without taking their attention off of the real world. Pokemon Go, Snapchat’s lenses, even Google Glass, have shifted the attention toward this new technology and the power behind it. Now, with Apple’s release of three new phones – the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X, plus the launch of ARKit for iOS and Google’s ARCore for Android, AR is poised to move into the hands of the public.

“As traditional revenues from television advertising are beginning to erode, a new trillion-dollar industry is emerging that mandates brands be omnipresent. Within this decade, augmented reality is going to change the way the always-connected consumer works, shops and plays. Once contextual marketing seamlessly transitions to commerce, it will be trusted brands—and the savvy marketers who manage them—that help consumers augment their world with tailored experiences to enhance their daily lives.” – AdAge

As the conversation turns toward the benefits of AR, how can we, as marketers, adopt and harness the power of this emerging technology?

Feature Interactive Ads.

Stryker Diagnostics, the makers of hip and knee medical devices, chose this V-Pop design as a tradeshow invitation. When you open the invitation, a postcard pops up in the center. The call to action on the postcard was to bring the postcard to the Stryker booth to experience a 3D demonstration of the hip and knee devices. When users held the postcard marker in front of the web cams set up at the Stryker kiosks they were able to view a live 360 degree 3D demonstration of these devices. Take a look at the movie to see it in action!

Make Your Products Scannable.

Open up our shadow box and meet our robot technology mascot, Joey. Joey has all of your SG technology capabilities questions answered with a simple scan of his mid-section.

Simply download Taggar for Augmented Reality or activate your QR code reader, scan his mid-section, and be launched into a technology experience!

For more ideas on how to use AR in your business’ marketing efforts, read this blog post by Incisive Edge.

Click here to learn more about our technology capabilities at Structural Graphics.

6 Brilliant Direct Mail Ideas You Should be Incorporating into Your Marketing Plan

In a highly digital world, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get your company’s message heard above the noise. But direct mail can make this seemingly impossible task possible.

Direct mail marketing hinges on the idea of connecting brands with customers in a real and tangible way. To accomplish this effectively, we recommend getting their attention through clever ideas, interactivity and unique attention to detail. In fact, our direct mail designs deliver an average response rate of 8.5 percent.

The next time you’re ideating about your next direct mail marketing campaign, use these examples below to wow the group (and increase your response rates)!

Atlanta Falcons Mercedes-Benz Stadium Mailer

We produced this piece for The Atlanta Falcons to give fans a sneak peek of the new Mercedes-Benz multi-purpose retractable roof stadium under construction in Atlanta, Georgia. This piece was also used to encourage fans to purchase their season tickets and to sign up for a tour of the new stadium. The cover of this piece featured an image of the stadium roof. When pulled down on the side-tab, the roof petals immediately opened up to give recipients a demonstration and preview of the new roof opening. The inside of the mailer featured a web key that drove recipients to a unique URL where they could learn more and experience a virtual tour of the new stadium. The web key also allowed our customer to keep track of who visited the site and market to those who did not accordingly.

Fort Worth Zoo Ball Custom Invitation

In conjunction with Schaefer Advertising, we designed this custom event invitation with our client for the Fort Worth Zoo Ball, an annual fundraising event to support the privately owned, non-profit zoo. Some of the highlights of this high-profile event included an appearance by Reba McEntire, a silent auction and a raffle.

Mettler Toledo Flapper

Mettler Toledo is a multinational manufacturer of scales and analytical instruments. They used the Flapper direct mail solution as part of a national lead generation campaign. The Flapper featured imagery of a man with glasses. As you opened up each of the multiple panels, the expression on his face changed slightly which helped build momentum with each panel flip.

NutriSolutions Folder with Cylinder

RR Donnelley partnered with us on this high-impact direct mail solution for agricultural brand WinField. WinField was looking for an impactful way to market NutriSolutions, their complete plant nutrition management program. What they chose was this direct mail folder which included a pop-up cylinder on the inside. The cylinder included comprehensive information on the NutriSolutions program.

Carestream Shadowbox Mailer

Carestream is no stranger to the power of high-impact print! They came to us to develop a visually creative mailer to highlight their DRX-Revoluion Mobile X-Ray system. They chose our Shadowbox Mailer design. It shipped flat but when you pull on the side panels, the inside transformed into a shadowbox display with the X-Ray machine featured front and center.

Food Lion Renovation Pop Up

Grocery store chain, Food Lion, mailed this fun pop-up to customers to make them aware of renovations being made to the store and to get them excited about some upcoming changes to the store and product line. The piece is effective to mail because it starts out flat and memorable because of the dimensional component that pops up as soon as you open the piece.

#TBT: Deliver Magazine

A few weeks ago, one of our staff members was combing through the archives, and came upon this wonderful article from the August 2010 issue of Deliver Magazine. How fortunate of a find, seeing as we recently celebrated our 40th year as a company. We love being able to go back, remember our roots and relive some of our favorite projects over again.

Won’t you join us?

Deliver Magazine (Vol 6, Issue 4, August 2010)