3 Simple Ways to Ensure Your Direct Mail Doesn’t Get Tossed

It’s a common scenario: after months of strategizing and laboring over copy or designs, your direct mail piece is ready to be shipped. But when you drop it off at the post office, it can feel like you’re throwing all that hard work into a black hole; from there you have no control over how recipients respond to it, if they respond.

Know the feeling?

Well, it doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of worrying whether your promo code will reach the right people or if the intended recipients will even open your mail piece, use these few simple tricks to make sure your marketing reaches the right people at the right time:

  1. Clean Up Your Mailing List. It doesn’t matter how great your copy is if you’re sending mail to the wrong people or to the wrong address (this goes for email distribution, too). If you’re using an incorrect or outdated mailing list, your mail has limited hope of landing in the mailbox you intended for it to. Instead, start with an accurate, updated distribution list. Perhaps that means scrubbing your current mailing list for duplicates, deleting any addresses that have been marked “return to sender” or removing anyone who hasn’t interacted with your communications in awhile. Whatever you do, ensure that you’re getting your contact information from a reliable source.
    Making sure your list is clean and correct not only guarantees that your mail will be delivered to the people you want it to go to, but it also eliminates the need to overspend on postage, printing, packaging and more.
  2. Pick Your Moment. Now that you’ve updated and scrubbed your mailing list, you have to choose the appropriate time to send your direct mail piece. Does it include a promotion that’s good for a limited time? Is there an urgency or a seasonality to what you’re trying to sell? This blog post goes into more detail on the best times of year to send various marketing pieces and the strategy behind doing so. The idea here is the make sure you’re targeting the right people with your marketing and provide value to them with your mail. 
  3. Capture Their Attention. When it comes to marketing, this is more easily said than done. Once your mail makes it in the hands of your target audience, the next crucial step is to make sure they’ll open it and see what you’re trying to communicate. Dimensional print is a great option for this. The pieces ship flat, but spring to life once they’re opened. A few of our favorite designs are the Flapper®, which constantly unfolds into itself, the Extendo®, which reveals hidden panels that triples the size of your marketing message, our SleekPeeks® Virtual Reality Viewers that showcase immersive experiences for your target audience, and the classic Pop Up Cube that automatically and unexpectedly pops into fully dimensional shape once removed from its envelope. 

Let’s Get ‘Phygital’

Print and digital. Digital and print.

These two forms of marketing, once separate, are now (combined) the key to what could be a powerful integrated marketing strategy, especially as postal rates and paper costs continue to drive up companies’ budgets. While it’s instinctive that organizations looking to slash operational spend decrease print and postage costs, print is still preferred by 60 percent of customers.

How do you find perfect harmony between managing rising print and mail costs while still maintaining an excellent experience for the consumer?

The answer, according to Matt Swain from Broadridge, is choice.

He posits in this article that organizations are “in a position to create a more strategic alignment between their print and digital communications” by going “phygital” – combining print with digital.

 

As businesses look more favorably at incorporating integrated marketing campaigns into their strategic plans, many are redesigning their print communications in order for them to complement their digital counterparts. Part of this move includes bridging the gap with technology.

QR, AR, VR and more allow businesses to introduce themselves and their products in a “paperless” way. We’re seeing these technologies drive customer engagement and strengthen customer-business relationships. Plus, the use of this technology may qualify your business for an upfront 2 percent USPS postage promotion discount that is in effect for 2019. Not to mention, combined with a high-impact dimensional printed format, the engagement level of each marketing campaign which includes these technologies increases.

Structural Graphics & Sister Company, The Lift Factor, Take Home Top GDUSA Awards

Who designed the most innovative packaging of 2018? Graphic Design USA, the leading B2B resource for graphic design professionals, answered that question this month with the announcement of the winners of the 2019 GDUSA American Package Design Awards.

More than 1,000 marketers, designers and printers were challenged as never before to promote their brand in a way that would forge an emotional link with their customers. Out of those entrants, Structural Graphics took home two accolades: winner in the Luxury Packaging Category for Creata Kellogg’s Jurassic World Promotional Video Box and winner in the Food and Beverage Category for the GSD&M Popeyes Emotional Support Chicken Box.

Structural Graphics’ insurance marketing sister company, The Lift Factor, is also a winner in the Luxury Packaging Category for the Brighthouse Planter Mailer.

How Does Print Marketing Affect the Brain?

Did you know that our brains process physical and digital media very differently?

According to this study commissioned by the USPS in 2015, physical content seems to leave a longer lasting impression than digital ones. While the average consumer processes digital ad content faster, we spend more time with physical ads, remembering them longer and showing stronger emotional responses to them.

“Physical ads, though slower to get one’s attention at first exposure, leave a longer lasting impact for easy recall when making a purchase decision. Most importantly, physical ads triggered activity in the area of the brain (ventral striatum) that is responsible for value and desirability for featured products, which can signal a greater intent to purchase.”

Then there’s the notion of tactile content for the development of psychological ownership, a state of mind that leads people to value objects they physically handle more highly than those they haven’t touched. Physically holding and manipulating a piece of print content has some of the same positive psychological effects as experiential and in-person marketing initiatives.

For marketers, these findings have practical implications.

“From a marketer’s perspective, it’s essential to always view your position to the customer as extending beyond immediate transactional value and establish a complex set of relationship-based connections that will drive future growth.” – Nicola Brown, Skyword.com

This information can help companies of all sizes and across all industries optimize their advertising dollars, especially small businesses which are often faced with limited marketing budgets. For those consumers who are short on time, the digital format captures attention longer. However, if the goal is to have a longer lasting impact and easy recollection, print is the way to go. It also seems to increase our sense of trust and level of understanding and enjoyment.

Independent research company Toluna found that US consumers of all ages believe print content is more trustworthy than digital, with 59% of survey responders not trusting advertisements they view online. 71% of people surveyed stated they “don’t pay attention to advertisements online”, while 63% read the direct mail sent to their homes at least once a week. Direct mail is certainly seeing a resurgence in Marketing, and consumers have shown that it is here to stay.

Think Outside the (In)Box: 5 Print Trends to Take Advantage Of

Where did January go?

As we continue to execute our 2019 marketing promotions and campaigns, there is no better time to revisit (and rethink!) your business’ print communications. Is your collateral giving people what they want? Does your team have clear priorities spelled out from the beginning?

If you answered “no” to either of these questions, keep reading for some tips on how you can ensure your brand communications aren’t missing any opportunities for business.

  1. Plan, plan plan. Is your warehouse overflowing with inventory? Or maybe you’re nervous to try dimensional print because of the barriers to entry? It helps to have a clear plan. By starting with the end in mind, you’ll be able to print only what your team needs, thus reducing inventory, waste and long-term costs.
  2. Get physical. Provide your customers with an immersive and interactive experience when they open your direct mail piece, invitation or campus flyer. More and more, the printing industry is getting increasingly creative with everything from packaging techniques to Virtual Reality. Cut through the noise of overflowing inboxes and standard postcard mailers to not only capture your customers’ attention, but their hearts, too. 
  3. Don’t ignore the double dippers. These are the folks who receive both paper and digital communications. Statistically, many of these consumers are younger and, though they’re the most likely to go paperless eventually, are still open to the idea of receiving hard copies and snail mail. Take advantage of this market.
  4. Convenience is key. According to a poll by Keypoint Intelligence-Info Trends, customers said the best way for marketers to improve their print communications is to make them easier to understand. Instead of worrying about providing customers with every detail about your business, consider streamlining your marketing and focusing on one single “story” per piece. Not only does this cut out unnecessary detail, but it also makes your marketing easier to digest. Oh, and please, please remember to include a clear call to action.
  5. Prioritize, then execute. Perhaps a complete overhaul of your marketing strategy is in order, or maybe it just needs a fresh pair of eyes. Whatever the case, re-positioning your brand strategy allows businesses to start from scratch and execute on your priorities. How do you want customers to feel when they see your marketing communications? What action should they take after receiving it? These are all great questions to ask yourself and your team (if you’re not doing so already). They’ll encourage you to set clear goals for the year and inspire more detailed, thoughtful game plans to achieve them.

Can Seasons Affect Your Business’ Direct Mail Responses? We Think So.

Here in New England, we eat, sleep and do business based on the seasons. But many marketers, specifically those who utilize direct mail, tend to focus so much on the whats and whos of their strategy, and lose sight of when to actually send their pieces.

Do you know what time of year is best for your company to send mailings? If you’re in an industry like retail or travel, then maybe. However, if you’re operating in a space like manufacturing, commodity or design, you might not. What’s more, do you know those weeks or months – when your response rates plummet – to avoid?

Here’s an example: Financial planners get the worst response rates during November and December, when many people are spending time with their loved ones to celebrate the holidays. Other days, like Memorial Day, Labor Day and Independence Day are also notoriously low for response rates. January, though, is just the opposite. While individuals are evaluating their finances and planning for the year ahead, the first quarter of the year is generally best for CFPs to remind clients that they’re a valuable resource.

Similarly, the holidays may be a perfect time for retailers to target consumers looking to purchase food, clothing or toys for their families, friends and mailpersons. By mailing at just the right times, we’re able to make the best use out of our direct mail pieces and provide the most valuable to those receiving them.

Experiment with small mailings and compare your business’ response rates over time. In weeks or months, you’ll be able to identify the appropriate cadence for your mailings and be efficient with your advertising budget at the same time!

4 Things Innovative Marketers Will Do In 2019

You know it and we know it: Print is not dead. In fact, it’s more alive than ever before.

Not only can print help with building brand trust, but if done right, it can also help a brand reach a wider audience when part of a holistic marketing strategy.

So what’s a marketer to do?

To help you out, we’ve compiled four tips to run with in the year ahead.

  1. Let History Be Your Guide. Remember that holistic marketing strategy we mentioned above? It can prove to be invaluable, especially when you’re trying to create your next print ad or campaign. Comb through your brand’s social media analytics to see your best performing posts. Do you see any patterns? Find that common thread and use it to inform your print work.
  2. Take Note. So, you’ve purchased ad space in the perfect publication, but now the only question is how to make your ad stand out. Take a look at the magazine or newspaper, itself: Does it feature mostly text? Bold colors and little negative space? Whatever it is, try to deviate from that path to ensure you’ll stand out. Just make sure you don’t deviate from your other print and digital campaigns – you still want customers to recognize you.
  3. Don’t Give Away The Whole Story. Otherwise, what’s the point? When you’re developing a print campaign, it’s important that each piece thoughtfully tells a piece of the story you want to tell. The idea is to take customers on a journey with a clear call-to-action at the end. Tease and hook your audience. Don’t let too much out of the bag at once.
  4. Embrace Technology. Take some inspiration from Departures or InStyle, publications which both featured magazine ads that included ground-breaking technologies. From a pulse reader for Toyota to an expertly choreographed lighting experience for Audi, the marriage of traditional and modern media successfully created a multi-sensory experience that captured prospects’ attention.

Entering 2019: Our Marketing Predictions for the Year Ahead

In the lead up to the New Year, we put our heads together to share our vision for the year ahead. Here are a few trends we think will be shaping our marketing in 2019.

Video Marketing

Let’s face it: humans are visual creatures. Colors, graphics, movement and story lines capture our attention, especially when it comes to marketing. Take Facebook, for example. With the unveiling of their new Facebook Portal, we’re seeing commercials and ads that showcase the product as a small, but essential, character in people’s lives. And it isn’t the only one. Brands like HP, Google, Airbnb, Nike and Everlane, to name a few, have all jumped on the bandwagon that is authentic video storytelling.

But video creation is no longer only for brands with big budgets. Any good marketing campaign should be designed to trigger an emotional response, and video has consistently proven itself as an effective way to do this. According to this report by Cisco, video will make up more than 85% of all consumer internet traffic in the USA by 2020. What’s more, video marketing has zero signs of slowing down.

So what’s a brand to do? Whether you’re just getting started with video marketing or you want to up your video marketing’s “wow factor”, give our Video-in-Print Brochure a try.

The Netflix Effect

OK, so this may not be a real thing (yet), but what we’ve dubbed “The Netflix Effect” will continue to inform content and brand marketing into 2019. Four parts. Ten episodes. What’s working for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu will work just as effectively for branded content if done right.

Strategically planning out and delivering your brand’s story in a way that plays to consumers’ interests and attention spans isn’t just great for them, it’s great for your company’s bottom line. To do this, leverage micro-targeting and new content delivery platforms and technologies.

Artificial Intelligence

Content will be more and more automated. Text aside, brands like Sephora, Starbucks and Apple are already automating their marketing using mapping, facial recognition and chatbots to aide in handling customer service interactions. As consumers crave increasingly more personalized and contextual messaging from the brands, publications and companies they support, this trend will continue to extend beyond marketing into automated news reporting, customer service, business intelligence, etc.

Engaging Audiences

We’ve really loved to see the evolution of how brands are engaging with their audiences. From Audi to the US Postal Service, virtual reality and augmented reality have proven themselves as important tools that bridge traditional print with evolving forms of media and technology. They’re so effective, in part, because of their immersive qualities – AR and VR have a unique ability to involve consumers in brand’s storytelling, creating a faster (and often stronger) sense of connection between the two.

Merging Old School + New School

Believe it or not, what’s tried and true are staples for a reason. That’s why direct mail still has value.

Here’s the thing: everyone likes getting mail. That is, when it’s personalized, unique, relevant and valuable to the recipient (not a bill…). With all of the technological advancements in automation and digital marketing, direct mail has actually proven to be more valuable if done right. In fact, response rates for direct mailers have risen to as high as 5%, more than four times that of digital.

So, don’t shy away from old school marketing like postcards, brochures and catalogs. Rather, use these formats (if they work for your brand) in an intentional way that is both relevant and valuable to the recipient. Use data to inform your content and think outside the box when it comes to choosing a design.

Don’t know where to start? We recommend taking a look at our Flapper, Pop Up Cube and Extendo.

Popeyes is Offering Emotional Support (Chicken) this Holiday Season

A common topic of discussion in the news lately has surrounded the idea of allowing animals on airplanes to provide emotional support for travelers during the holiday season, as well as the restrictions for the types of animals that should be allowed. When GSD&M, Austin, TX had a buzz-worthy idea and design for a campaign for their client, Popeyes, to get holiday travelers talking (or should we say “squawking”) they contacted Blanks Printing, & Digital Solutions and the design and assembly teams at Structural Graphics to help bring this project to life!

The solution? “Emotional Support [Fried] Chicken”. For a limited time, those travelling in Terminal C of the Philadelphia Airport during the 2018 holiday season can now pick up the box which contains a 3-piece Chicken Tender combo meal from Popeyes.  Why the Philadelphia airport? Because it was named one of the most stressful airports in the United States.

“We know holiday travel can be frustrating, and there’s no better way to ease stress than with a box of delicious Popeyes fried chicken and a good laugh. We appreciate how comforting emotional support animals are and wanted to create our own version,” stated Popeyes CMO, Hope Diaz via news release.

The best part is, Popeyes is guaranteeing that their Emotional Support Chicken is “permitted to fly without any restrictions”, helping ease some of the worries for those crazed travelers this holiday season.

Blanks Printing & Digital Solutions, Dallas, TX printed this project on the new HP 12000 Digital press. Structural Graphics proudly engineered the design for function, created several rounds of full color test prototypes, and then hand assembled for the launch in the Philadelphia airport on Tuesday, December 18th.

Is There Still A Place For Holiday Catalogs?

Every year, as the holiday season rolls around, we’re taken back to our childhoods and the stacks of catalogs that would inevitably inform our lists. There was nothing quite as exciting as pouring over those glossy pages. We’d dog ear corners or cut out images of toys we’d later beg our parents to gift us, a reward after behaving  well for the entire year.

However, as we’ve reached adulthood and the “Internet of Things” has exploded, that time spent listing carefully curated items has been replaced by the robotic, instantaneous click of adding a new item to our online shopping cart.

Which begs the question: Is there still a place for the old holiday catalog?

Jeff Bezos thinks so and we’re inclined to agree. These days, it’s easy to assume that print is dying or that it’s antiquated at best. But brands from IKEA to Pier One and magazines like Departures and InStyle can teach us marketers a thing or two about how this “old media” can complement our business’ digital footprints in a well-rounded, well-structured marketing strategy – especially around the holidays.

Print Catalogs: The Beginning

The catalog isn’t a new concept. In fact, it’s a very, very, very old concept. Published in Venice in 1498, the first catalog was essentially a hand-lettered and hand-bound pamphlet including lists of books available for purchase.

In North America, it would take nearly 350 years before the U.S. would see its own version of Europe’s booklets. In 1845, Tiffany and Co. released a piece called the “Blue Book”, which was later followed by “Eaton’s Catalog” in Canada in 1875.

This Medium article by Divya Pahwa does a great job explaining the catalog’s history in more detail.

The Case for Today’s Catalogs

Think of it this way: print catalogs are like any other physical marketing piece.

As with other forms of print marketing, it’s important to recognize that it’s but one part of a wider, overarching marketing strategy for your business or brand. Find and capitalize on opportunities for crossover, including the addition of QR codes, clear CTAs and interactive print to drive readers to microsites and pre-determined landing pages.

Aside from meeting your own business goals, it’s imperative to make sure your audience’s needs are met and that they feel connected to your brand. As Steve Daniels explains for Medium’s The Startup, “Print magazines are no longer about information; the ones that are have become a commodity that is easily replicated online. Today’s print magazines are lifestyle products.”

The takeaway for marketers? Act accordingly.