7 Tips for Creative Direct Mail

Enhance your direct mail creative

Your marketing creative influences customer experience, brand trust, and consumer loyalty – all of which directly impact your bottom line. Your direct mail design is just as important. Celtra research reports:

  • 85% of respondents are more likely to trust a brand with well-designed advertisements
  • 74% are more likely to remain loyal to a brand with high-quality creative content
  • 57% report their customer experience has been negatively impacted by poor creative content

It is statistics like these that are causing marketers to push the limits on your mail package. Here are seven tips to revive traditional direct mail formats and content for an enhanced, high-quality package; plus an example of how creative direct mail enhancements can positively impact your brand’s program performance.

1. Lead with your value prop

Avoid making your audience search for your brand story and value proposition by leading with it. This is especially important as congested marketplaces and accelerated digital content cause consumer attention spans to continue to decline.  If you are struggling to pinpoint exactly what your brand is or feel like you are drowning in a sea of competitors, then instead define what you are not. This answer will build your brand narrative and allow you to confidently identify your value proposition—ultimately informing the rest of your creative composition.

2. Tap your storytelling skills

Contrary to popular digital tactics, direct mail copy is not limited to 140 characters. So tap your storytelling skills and leverage your design space to fully immerse your audience in your brand story. Use conversational copy to magnify your value and guide readers through your piece. Language such as, “we’re here to help” or “let us guide you,” keeps your tone authentic, sincere and engaging.

3. Trust your audience cues

More than 70% of consumers agree it is more important than ever to purchase from brands that reflect their own values. Alignment between your brand story and your target audience’s wants and needs is critical to forming brand affinity in today’s competitive marketplace. Take advantage of customer feedback, surveys and social media conversations to gain insight into your audience’s mindset, specifically watching for confirmation or rejection of your brand voice and authenticity to verify if you are on the right path.

4. Design from a new perspective

Look outside of the channel for direct mail design inspiration. Fashion, pop culture and TV shows (even the news) are a direct reflection of marketing and design trends and can prove to be vital resources when developing a creative direct mail package – particularly when brand relevancy consistently tops the list of consumer desires.

5. Focus on the positive

When designing for direct marketing, positive human imagery (such a faces or hands), helps consumers effectively connect with your brand and trust its message. Consumers that feel connected to a brand are 57% more likely to increase their spending and 76% more likely to choose that brand over a competitor. Calming and reassuring color palettes are also proven to have a positive influence on brand recognition and purchasing decisions.

6. Cohesiveness counts

Universal Principles of Design research tells us two things: images are remembered significantly more than text, and advertisements that feature a combination of text and images are better remembered than an ad that features only images or only text. Designers and copywriters must work in close collaboration to build a cohesive and impactful direct mail package. The right combination of focused messaging and distinctive imagery is sure to give your audience a memorable experience that is truly unique to your brand.

7. Don’t dwell on your design

Design is subjective and the longer you scrutinize a piece, the more changes and edits you will have resulting in a piece that is never perfect or complete. The recommended review time for direct mail creative is four or fewer days during each stage. This allows your team time to give the piece a comprehensive review, without rushing or prolonging the project. 

How Direct Mail Design Impacts Performance

To keep your creative from going stale, continuously challenge it by regularly testing new or revised direct mail designs against your control. As a best practice, always refer to past concepts to see what you’ve tried or have not – and how it affected results.

A leading home services brand wanted to ensure its mail program was achieving maximum performance, so it tested three unique creative packages against its control. Each test concept was strategically designed with different elements to truly identify what resonated best with the diverse and growing audience.

  • The control was a traditional letter package that featured long format and dense copy.
  • Test concept 1 mirrored the letter package format with refreshed copy and modern visuals.
  • Test concept 2 included an interactive element on the letter package, conceptual imagery, and blocked content.
  • Test concept 3 was a self-mailer that pushed the design esthetic even more with a bold color palette and modern imagery.

After two consecutive testing periods, all three creative direct mail tests outperformed the control package by more than 15%, contributing to a 54% increase in sales.


Just like consumer behaviors, the mail industry and design strategy are ever evolving. Do not be afraid to challenge the status-quo and enhance your direct mail package with creative and engaging design elements.

Creative is an ongoing test for campaign effectiveness, and we love a challenge. Read this blog post for some of our favorite direct mail examples to get your creative juices flowing. Then, download our free e-book, Utilizing Direct Mail Creative to Alert and Convert, to learn the secrets straight from our pros for designing a mail piece that best represents your brand, speaks to your audience, and evokes response. 

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