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High Impact Tricks for Engaging Mail The secret to achieving a “wow-factor” on any budget

2. Special Print Effects

1. Creative Format Choice We get so used to looking at the same few formats every day that sometimes it’s easy to forget that we can change these formats in even the simplest of ways to make them feel and look entirely different. If you don’t believe me, then take your usual 4" x 9" tri-fold and make it 9" x 4" and see what that does to your layout (and your mind). On the opposite end of the format spectrum, creative specialty formats can be impactful and fun. Different stands out, and the opportunities are endless, so if you’d like a place to start, visit and check out our dieline and specialty offerings. There are lots of options, but no matter what, always think about user experience, and the placement of your critical marketing messages.

To give print some “pop,” you can apply varnishes and coatings to enhance the appearance of the paper (or the imagery on it). Varnish—in dull, gloss or satin finish—is ink that is either without pigment, or lightly tinted with pigment for a more subtle wash of color. Varnish can be applied as a flood or spot application. Often dull and gloss varnishes are used together to create contrast on the sheet. You can also use it merely to protect the surface. For stronger protection and, in some cases, more drama, you can use a press coating instead. There are two kinds of coatings— aqueous and UV. An aqueous coating is a fastdrying coating that is usually a flood application in dull, gloss or satin finish. It is more resistant to scratching than a varnish and does not yellow over time. A UV coating gets its name from the ultraviolet drying process it requires. UV coatings can be applied as flood or spot and offer tremendous oblong gloss and surface protection. UV is also the narrow most expensive of the coating processes, but it

format change

can be worth the money for the added impact it creates. UV can be applied in high gloss, sandpaper finish, soft touch, glitter and others. If you’re printing digitally, advancements in digital print have led to printing with white ink, transparent ink, spot colors, fluorescents, glitter and more. Ask Rider Dickerson for guidance.

3. Asymmetry The key to getting attention is to do something unexpected. Asymmetry is a fun way to get a viewer’s interest, and it can be achieved in many ways. For example, you can utilize asymmetry in the format you choose—like a gate fold where the gap between the panels is pushed off-center. You could also use an angled trim to throw things off balance. Smaller tweaks of asymmetry can be made with graphic elements, like putting an image or text box at an angle. It’s distracting. Some of these tricks reallyAsymmetry do defy traditional design practice, and that’s what makes them interesting to the eye.

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4. Paper Choice Utilizing the tactile quality of a printed piece can be a great way to stand out from the crowd, as there is an undeniable physicality to a printed piece that gives it the power to captivate the recipient. Choosing papers that are different from the norm in some way—brighter and whiter, smoother and glossier, colored and textural— can send subliminal messages to your recipients. You can leverage paper choice (and weight) to communicate sophistication, eco-consciousness, style, and personality, and you can even deliberately choose low budget papers to look “bargain basement.” It all depends upon what you’re trying to accomplish.

5. Technology Many see print as just its name implies—ink on paper—while others on the cutting edge see print as a medium to deliver different forms of technology that can enhance the print experience. If you’re on a tight budget, try variable data personalization, QR codes and personalized URLs to drive customers to the next step. On the higher end of the spectrum, there are wafer-thin High definition LCD screens embedded

into printed materials, fiber optics, RFID tracking devices, Near-Field Communications (NFC), electroluminescence, Augmented Reality (AR), sound chips, and more. Imagine your customer opening their mailpiece and using the latest in print-integrated technology to learn about your new product. Now, that’s powerful. Adding sophisticated technology to your printed mailpiece definitely adds to the cost, however, if positioned correctly and sent to a targeted audience of interested parties, technology can elevate visibility, build a brand and dramatically increase response.

6. Visual Tricks Sometimes the way to create impact is to do so with a snazzy visual trick. The key is to create a situation where one image integrates with another—maybe something is changed or revealed, maybe there’s humor, or a message— it could be anything. Here’s a sample scenario: maybe there’s a photo (front view) of a highend oven with a short-trim panel at the oven door that says “open here.” When you open the panel, it pulls downward like a real oven door to reveal a pan of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven. So, utilizing a basic short trim and interesting imagery, you can also amuse and

captivate the recipient. Cheap, easy and fun! Image tricks can be integrated in lots of fun ways (see #9).

7. Die Cuts Everybody loves a die cut. Although not usually in the “cheap tricks” category, some of the simpler forms of die-cutting can happen inline during the print finishing process. Sometimes even a simple slit and tuck or rounded corner can make things interesting. If you’re on a super-tight budget, you can always try an angled guillotine trim. Guillotine trims can give the effect of a die without the price tag. It’s amazing what a simple short trim on a cover or fold-in panel can do to even the most basic of folding styles. And guillotine trims don’t have to be straight. Add an angled trim to a cover, to the corners, or even better, along the top of an accordion fold for a waterfall effect.

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8. Dimension Dimensional print materials are always fun and unexpected. The surprise of opening something that expands, lifts, twists, moves or stands on its own is always an opportunity to engage. Response rates can go into the double digits when a dimensional campaign is done right. The trick with dimensional, however, is concept and message. Although dimensional communications have tremendous power to engage us, they can also distract us and keep us from getting the message (i.e.: “Look! This is so cool! I’m going to save it!”). So, it’s critical that any added dimension makes sense, and drives the recipient to action. There are amazing things going on in the dimensional mail arena—and Rider Dickerson can bring lots of solutions to the table for you, so ask your RD representative for help.

9. Zip Strips and Pull Tabs

10. Lumpy, Bumpy Print

If you can get the viewer to interact with your printed piece, that’s a major win. Interesting interactive mechanisms like pull tabs and zip strips can be applied to folded formats and envelopes to make them instantly more engaging. The sound of opening the piece, the interaction with it, and the curiosity it generates are all benefits. Think about creating an experience that pulls the viewer in and gets them involved. It’s a proven technique, and it doesn’t have to break the bank.

There’s something about a mysteriously lumpy piece of mail—you just have to open it and see what’s inside. Sometimes it’s a coupon or gift card, a heavy insert, a paper clip or a coin. Maybe it’s a free pen, a magnet or a luggage tag—and whether it’s worth something to you or not, it got your attention for a moment. Maybe you kept it, maybe you threw it out. Object marketing is an old-school technique that works. Little tchotchkes are great for companies that offer certain types of recurring services like accounting, plumbing, dry cleaning, etc. Plastic coupons in the shape of credit cards, lenticulars, and inserts can be useful and engaging. More valuable giveaways, like custombranded USB drives or objects that support creative marketing concepts can be attractively packaged with marketing material and mailed to targeted customers or prospects for a memorable impression. When considering what to give away, remember that the best gifts are the ones that connect somehow to your product, service, or offer. Portions of this list were extracted from the “Direct Mail Simplified” series by Trish Witkowski. The series is available at

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Tricks for Engaging Mail  
Tricks for Engaging Mail