What Makes You Open That Envelope?

by | Apr 24, 2014

What Makes You Open That Mailing Envelope?

The electric bill, birthday cards, items won on eBay … all arrive to the home mailbox on a daily basis, along with an endless stream of solicitations affectionately known as “junk mail.”

Making your mailing envelope stand out in that sea of envelopes is a challenge, especially when the popular press publications urge consumers to cull and toss to cut down on clutter in the home. As marketers, you need to consider the ruthless organizers in your audience who make up their minds whether to shred, recycle, or take action on mail in 10 seconds or less.

Most of us think: “Well, an envelope naturally needs to attract attention, so if I place a bold, graphic image or something on the front, that should make people open it.”

Or will they?

Do graphics actually have any influence on individuals opening an envelope?

We had the opportunity to test this hypothesis with a mailing we performed for IMA World Health, a nonprofit, faith-based organization that provides healthcare services and medical supplies to developing countries, where an estimated 30 to 70 percent of healthcare is provided by faith-based organizations.

IMA World Health mailed a year-end appeal letter to 40,000 donors and prospects. Six versions of the letter targeted specific types of donors, based on factors such as giving interests, frequency of giving, and average size of the gift.

Those letters were inserted into two types of envelopes: Half of the recipients received the full-color envelope you see above. The other half received this little beauty instead:

Naturally, you would surmise that the envelope with the full-color design would have a greater chance of being opened. But, according to IMA World Health’s figures…

The response rate for both envelopes was the same.

So what else might have affected our little experiment?

  • First, this test would need to be replicated many times using different variables (envelope size, positioning of images, appeal type, etc.) to come to a definitive conclusion about envelope image effectiveness.
  • Consider familiarity as a factor: Did the individuals, regardless of envelope design, open the envelopes simply because they were familiar with IMA World Health from a past giving experience?
  • Think about the fluctuations of mail volume: How many other items accompanied their envelope in the mail on the day the mailing actually reached their home mailboxes? Did day of the week impact how soon the envelope was opened?

Certainly these are things to think about and questions you should ask yourself as you embark on any type of mailing. Don’t be afraid to experiment on your own and test a few scenarios like we did with IMA World Health.

And when you do, give us a shout. We’d love to hear what you discover!

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