If you want to get your mail opened, you have three choices when it comes to the format of your outer envelope:
- Be unusual – tap into the hardwired human tendency to notice the novel.
- Slide in under the radar – present an "ignore at your peril" appearance.
- Write an irresistible teaser line – say something that just can't be passed up.
Some examples of the first category include wooden postcards, postcards with something shrink wrapped to them to create a 3D effect, envelopes with scratch-offs, boxes, tubes, padded envelopes, lunch bags—or even motion sickness bags—used as outer envelopes, heat-activated paper stock envelopes, inflatable envelopes, anti-static bags as envelopes and even envelopes made from seeded paper that can be planted to grow flowers. One of the most unusual mailings I've ever seen was a hand-addressed, stamped coconut, which advertised medical conventions in Hawaii. I'm pretty certain nothing similar showed up in the recipient's mailbox that day.
If you want to slide in under the radar, go for an official, authoritative look. Plain white #10 envelopes with no teaser can work well. So can snap-paks, overnight courier packs (think FedEx, UPS or Priority Mail), and envelopes with a smaller, second window revealing a date, code or some bit of relevant information. Using a light blue, canary yellow or mint green envelope stock can also add an air of seriousness to a mailing. So, too, can having a colored stock show through the address window of a plain, white business envelope. One of my favorite examples of a “slide in under the radar” mailing was an upsell solicitation in a white #10 envelope with a bright yellow sticker on it saying, "Please check numbers and adjust accordingly." Nothing "ad mail" about that approach!
Finally, if your only weapon to catch someone's attention and save your piece from certain recycling is your teaser, make sure you choose your words carefully. Pop an exceptionally good offer – along with its expiration date. Announce a new product, service or sale. Deliver long-awaited news. Know your audience and be exceedingly relevant. A number of years ago, my colleague Phll Feemster received a mailing from Apple. The outer envelope said Phil Feemster - Art Director, Phil Feemster - Account Director, Phil Feemster - Media Director. Phil saw his name three times in addition to seeing it in the address window. Not only was his name incredibly compelling to him, but seeing that Apple understood the many hats he wore at his agency was also a powerful message.