Printing and Design Tips: May 2020, Issue #226

A Striking Option for Sending a Marketing Mailer

I just received a mailer for a direct-to-garment digital printing press. What set it apart from the other mail, in my impression, was its carrier envelope. Instead of being a white opaque or brightly colored envelope, or even an envelope with a large plastic window, the mailing envelope was completely clear plastic. It was striking.

So I thought about why the printing OEM (original equipment manufacturer) had chosen this mailing option and why it worked. After all, it really stood out. And this is the prime directive for all direct mail. If the client doesn’t open it, its worthless. If the client wants to open it, it’s golden.

Here are some thoughts:

1. First of all, the package comprised two separate brochures printed on heavy cover stock. I usually get advertising material from this vendor that is fugitive-glued shut (sealed with a substance like rubber cement that I can rub off easily without damaging the brochure). But the brochures I receive usually come to me one at a time. In this case the vendor needed to send two, and they needed to arrive together. This necessitated the vendor’s using an envelope.

2. Nobody sends a completely clear envelope. Who would think of this? This vendor did. And it immediately got my attention because it was different from everything else in the mailbox.

3. Because the envelope was completely clear, I could see the contents. I’m a printing consultant and broker, and I have a client who buys digital garment printing. So the contents of the envelope (brochures on digital garment printing) piqued my interest.

4. I could immediately recognize the branding because I could instantly see the contents of the envelope. Immediate recognition is a plus for marketing mail. You only have a fraction of a second to grab the reader.

5. The envelope was substantial, and it had a perforated, easy-tear opening device. The precision and thought that went into this envelope enhanced the brand of the sender. It exuded precision, control, and aesthetics. All of these burnished the brand. (I believe the marketing firm had used fugitive glue closures on prior brochures for the same reason. That is, unlike paper or plastic wafer seals, fugitive glue comes off completely. The brochure is left pristine again, as it was immediately after being printed. Pristine brochures reflect well on the company and their technology.)

6. Anything that completely seals a marketing package (within the specs of the US Post Office, of course) is machinable. If a mailpiece can go through the automated machines, the mailer gets a postal discount.

For all of these reasons I think this particular treatment of the OGE (outgoing envelope) was a striking, powerful, and effective use of the marketer’s funds and creativity.

Consider Creating a Logo Style Guide

Many years ago, back when I had just become an art director, the non-profit organization for which I worked had hired an outside designer to produce our company logo. I coordinated the final aspects of this job, and I remember receiving not only the final physical logo art (this was back before the complete computerization of the printing industry) but also a document telling our company how to use it.

Here are some reasons why you may want to consider creating such a document as an adjunct to the logo itself, if you are designing or revising your company logo.

Sometimes logos have component parts. My former employer’s logo included the name of the company and also a stylized bald eagle above the type (it was a government education nonprofit organization). Several departments outside of the Publications Department regularly added logos to their documents, so everyone had to understand the acceptable (i.e., best) ways to use the logo, especially since some of these departmental managers had no design experience.

If these employees had not received a logo style guide, they might have used the logotype without the stylized eagle mark or, worse, used the stylized eagle without the logotype. (The latter would have rendered the logo unrecognizable. There would have been no name recognition.)

The logotype by itself (the name of the organization without the stylized eagle mark) would have diluted the brand (i.e., it would not have linked the name of the nonprofit foundation to its focus on government education). But in some cases (the prior iteration of this educational foundation’s logo), it was acceptable to print the word logo without the accompanying logomark. This is precisely the kind of issue you can address in a logo style guide.

Here’s another reason. You can tell employees how to faithfully print the company colors. My former employer was all about patriotism. Hence, there was a specific red (PMS 199) and a specific blue (PMS 286) that were always used when reproducing the logo. Had there not been a style guide, departments other than the Publications Department might have used other colors (again minimizing brand recognition).

In my former employer’s case, it was acceptable to print the logo in black ink only, as well as in the two PMS colors. However, it was not acceptable to create a 4-color build of the red or the blue, since these would not have exactly matched the logo colors on all other publications.

Or think about logo size. Our logo had to be the same size on all envelopes, so if one department ordered boxes of envelopes, they had to keep this in mind. Otherwise a series of envelopes received from our company might have looked mismatched (i.e., amateurish), and this might have led to a subliminal message that the organization itself was disorganized.

In this case, diluting the brand (or tarnishing the brand, or whatever else you want to call it) really means giving the impression of a lack of cohesion within the organization. A brand (or the graphic representation thereof in a printed logo) grows (enhances its equity) as clients are repeatedly exposed over time to the same "look." Think about how the Starbucks logo would be different if one franchise printed it in a different color than another franchise. Always seeing the same image reinforces something deep in your brain. It gives you an instantaneous "Aha! moment."

This is what your logo style guide can achieve. So think about drafting such a document if you are creating or refreshing your company logo. Here are some guidelines:

1. Consider the size the logo must be. It has to be large enough to be readable, even if it is reproduced within the size constraints of a business card. In many cases you may want the logo to be a consistent size (such as on company letterhead, envelopes, brochures, and on different employees’ business cards).

2. It is wise to give direction in the style guide as to whether the logo can be black only (in case someone wants to photocopy or laser print and then mail a document displaying the company logo).

3. What are the company colors? Must these be printed as additional PMS hues, or can a printer build these colors from 4-color process inks? If not, this will increase the printing costs (adding extra press units during the printing process). If so, do the process-color builds match the corporate colors accurately enough for everyone’s satisfaction? (Some PMS colors built with four process inks actually do come very close in color to their PMS equivalents, while others do not. Buy or borrow a PMS to 4-Color Process Guide that shows PMS colors next to their closest 4-color process matches. Your printer should have one of these color swatch books.)

4. Can elements of the logo ever be deconstructed and used separately? And, if so, how? The name recognition of the logotype may be enough in some cases, or it may not. You have to decide. Or your logo may only work with both the name of the company and any accompanying illustration or image.

5. Consider who might be using the logo. In my former employer’s case, there were satellite organizations all over the country. Every one of them received a logo style guide. Every satellite group had to conform to the visual presentation of the company’s materials.

6. You may even want to go so far as to specify limitations on paper choices as well. For instance, you might decide that flyers must be printed on 60# white offset or thicker paper. You might think that company materials printed on thinner paper feel flimsy and don’t reflect well on the organization.

It is always best to open this discussion to all of the key managers of your business organization. You will get different perspectives to consider, which you may want to address in the logo style guide. And, as importantly, you will inspire the key managers to commit to the rules of the logo style guide if they have contributed to its creation. For such a document to work, it must be adhered to by your entire company.

[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]