Add a New Dimension to Direct Mail

The goal of direct mail is to attract attention. Color printing, glossy finishes, personalization – all are designed to help a printed piece stand out from the rest of the mail. Marketers and their designers have to continue innovating to get marketing messages noticed.

To that end, there has been a growing trend toward “dimensional” mail. Dimensional mail is also known by the more descriptive term “lumpy mail,” indicating that the idea is to provide something a bit more substantial—or “lumpier”—than a flat postcard or letter. The “lump” itself—the object(s) included in the package—is an integral part of the “design” of the campaign.

Examples of lumpy mail can include:

  • an envelope containing a pen or other useful item bearing the client’s logo
  • a package containing product samples
  • candies or other treats or gifts accompanying promotional material
  • a physical object that ties into, perhaps symbolically, the campaign’s marketing message
  • basically, any object the designer and client see fit to include.

The idea is that everyone likes receiving something unique—especially when there is an appealing gift in the box aside from something promotional. This increases the likelihood that the recipient will not only open the package but also respond to the package’s message. The nature of the lump can either be literal (a product sample) or symbolic (say, a foam rubber brain, tied into the promotional message, “Working with us is a no-brainer”).

Obviously, a dimensional campaign will cost more per unit to produce, assemble, and mail than a regular direct mail campaign, so it’s important to narrow down and target the recipients more carefully. Dimensional mailing campaigns are best suited for trying to generate sales of something fairly expensive—a long-term consulting contract, an insurance policy, a real estate transaction, an expensive piece of equipment, etc.

Another challenge, especially in this time of heightened security, is to not frighten a recipient with an unmarked package, lest it be perceived as containing something dangerous. Be sure that recipients are not in a business (government, for example) that might have concerns with mysterious packages. One way around this is to integrate the marketing message on the outside of the envelope or package.

Here are some general guidelines for dimensional mail campaigns:

1. Be relevant. The lump should be practical (a product sample) or relate directly to the marketing message. Bewilderment is not the sort of attention you want.

2. Research production and mailing costs. Return on investment is crucial, and when developing a dimensional mail strategy, be realistic in your expectations. Case studies can provide guidance and offer an idea of the response rates obtained by the kind of campaign you are considering.

3. Consult with the Post Office to ensure that you are not violating regulations or mailing something the USPS (or other carrier) would deem unshippable, or that you are paying more to ship something than you should. Your campaign should be postally economical.

4. Test your campaign by mailing test samples to yourself or to colleagues to gauge the impact and condition of the package. Does it get wedged into a small mailbox and mutilated? Does it survive the mail stream at all?

5. Track and measure the results. Establish a realistic benchmark for success.

6. Be creative!

Be sure to check with us if you have any questions about producing, assembling, or shipping a lumpy mail campaign.