Creativity in direct mail is an important success factor. Getting the customer’s attention is the first order of business and it’s up to mail piece creative design to get this done. There are some limits however. During the creative phase of a campaign it’s important to think ahead about how pieces will be produced and mailed. Failure to anticipate can result in needless expense later.
Yes, you can mail a coconut. It will certainly stand out! You might also consider dimensional mail pieces made from more conventional materials, complicated folds, or unusual shapes. The extra production and postage expense may be justified if the lift in response is great enough.
Last minute surprises about unexpected processing or mailing costs, however, are not OK. By the time you discover the design flaws causing the issues it’s often too late and too expensive to start over. Understanding some basic mailing guidelines will help you avoid these situations. Here are a few areas mailers should always consider before approving designs for direct mail pieces.
Size and Shape – The size and shape of a piece can affect the mailing category and therefore the postage cost. Sometimes the size restrictions differ among mail classes. The maximum size for First Class postcards, for instance, is 4 ¼ inches high by 6 inches wide. Standard Mail, however, has no separate pricing for postcards so they can be as large as letters – 6 1/8 inches by 11 ½ inches.
Aspect Ratio – The ratio of length divided by height of a mail piece is called the aspect ratio. This calculation must fall between 1.3 and 2.5 to avoid the dreaded USPS non-machineable surcharge. Designing a mail piece just a little beyond the approved range can trigger the surcharge assessed to every piece in the mailing. On a batch of 25,000 First Class pieces, the surcharge alone would be over $5,000.00! By the way, the USPS considers the dimension of the mail piece parallel to the mailing address to be the length. Rotating the piece and printing the address parallel to the short side will always result in an aspect ratio less than 1. The non-machineable surcharge will be assessed.
Odd-Shaped Items in Envelopes – The USPS has special rules for items such as pens or keys that might burst through envelopes and damage postal equipment or injure their employees. Generally they must be wrapped. It may be necessary to add other material to the piece to achieve a necessary degree of uniform thickness.
Tabs – There are strict requirements about folded self-mailers. The Postal Service specifies the number, size, and placement of wafers, tabs, or glue used as closures. Designers should make sure they aren’t positioning important messages in locations where the tabs are going to be placed. Obscured information will negatively affect the performance of the piece.
We’ve highlighted just a few factors affecting mail ability and postage. In any mailing there are plenty of variables that contribute to your total project cost. Any time a mail piece design seems unusual it pays to have it evaluated by the print/mail production team early in the campaign development process. Small design alterations can save lots of money later.
What’s the most creative mail piece you’ve ever received? We’d like to hear from you! Please leave a message in the comments below.