I have been asked on more than one occasion: “Does color matter in direct mail?” My answer is always a resounding “YES!” Color sets your mail piece apart in a stack of mail. Color draws attention to your mailer and can either make or break your campaign. A well-designed mail piece using color, a relevant offer, and mailed to a clean list of people most likely to respond will increase your return on investment.

Design your mail piece or campaign using colors that are on brand. You have fewer than three seconds to grab attention to your mail piece, and by using your brand colors it helps recipients recognize who sent the mail piece. If you do not have a set of brand guidelines, I strongly suggest you get one. If you are unsure how to do so, find a creative designer to assist you. A proper brand guide should include your specific brand colors, font style, font size, and how your logo should be displayed. The use of any tag lines should be included as well. Besides your brand colors, you can also provide direction on the use of your logo in one-color situations.

Brand colors are the colors you use in your logo, letterhead, business cards, and marketing collateral. You will want to be sure these colors are used in all your marketing channels including direct mail, email marketing, and social media. Your font style and font size should be consistent between all marketing channels.

Your mail piece will need additional colors in most cases. Be sure to choose complementary colors to your brand. Stay away from colors that clash or overpower your brand. Less is better than more, so keep the number of additional colors to a minimum while still getting your message across.

Color invokes emotions. You can use color to create the emotion that suits your messaging and brand strategy. This is called the Psychology of Color and there is a lot of information regarding this topic online. A 2015 article from Print Solutions stated that blue is the most-used color in direct mail. Here are how colors are perceived and can be used to influence the mail recipient.

· Blues: Peace and calm, associated with trustworthy products

· Green: Growth, health, generosity

· Red and pink: Love, femininity, attention-grabbing colors

· Gold and purple: Luxury, royalty, wisdom, indicators of wealth

· Orange and yellow: Fun, happiness, creative, warm, cheerful colors

· Brown: Comfort, security

· Gray: Neutrality, non-judgmental

· White: Innocence, goodness, honest, truthful

· Black: Elegance, mystery, sophisticated

Images are another way to sell your product or service. Images should not clash with your brand colors and messaging. Use the images to help with creating an emotional response to your mail piece. Images can be obtained several diverse ways. You can use images from your own image library, or you can have a photographer take images for you. The images should be a high resolution of at least 1,200 DPI. You will want to be sure the image is clear and stay away from busy backgrounds or poor lighting. Images represent your company and brand. You will want to make sure they are pristine. Stock images can be purchased online as well from companies such as Getty Images and Shutterstock.

Color can also be used when testing mailing campaigns. Switch between your brand colors when doing A/B testing to see which color gets a better response rate. Keep the offer the same on both pieces to get accurate results. Mail the two versions multiple times and track your results. Once you have established the color that works best, you will make this your control package A. Next, change the offer on the B version of the mailer. If it draws better that the control package, then the B version will become the new control package A. Just like when you did the first series of mailings, you will want to mail out the B version more than once to ensure that it is drawing a better response rate that the original control package.

The use of coatings on your mail piece can enhance the color by brightening or dulling its appearance. Using a dispersion coating, where much of the coating is matte, and a smaller portion is high gloss can draw attention to a specific part of the mail piece. When using dispersion, the matte portion of the coating can either be smooth or textured to give your mail piece a unique feel. This technique works great for companies selling items or services where texture will enhance the mail piece. Examples are a landscape company that builds rock walls, or a home builder that builds log cabins or a furniture store highlighting everything from carpets to couches to lampshades.

Color can also save you postage on your direct mail campaign. The USPS currently is running two promotions in 2024. Here are the details on those two promotions:

Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Mail Piece Engagement

Registration opened on December 15, 2023, and runs through July 31, 2024, with the promotion running from February 1 through July 31. To qualify for this promotion a mail piece needs to engage though innovative use of paper stock, substrates, inks, interactive elements and finishing techniques. The promotion is for both Marketing Mail letters and Flats as well as First-Class Mail letters, cards, and flats. If you are mailing out a First-Class postcard, do not forget you can go up to 6” H x 9” W card and receive the First-Class Postcard rate. You must mail the cards out as an automated barcoded mailing. The discount for this promotion is five percent. This is the last year that gloss stock will qualify for this promotion.

A link to the Guidebook and Resources is available by going to https://postalpro.usps.com/promotions/tsi.

Personalized Color Transpromo

As in the case with the Tactile promotion, registration opened on December 15, 2023, and runs through July 31, 2024, with the promotion running from February 1 through July 31. The Personalized Color Transpromo Promotion enhances the value of First-Class Mail by encouraging mailers of bills and statements to incorporate color marketing messages to improve connection to and response from customers. By making mail pieces more fun and impactful, a mailer will get a three percent discount for personalized full color and consumer messaging, and this year, mailers will receive an additional one percent discount by including reply mail (BRM/CRM) to collect customer responses. A link to the Guidebook and Resources is available at https://postalpro.usps.com/promotions/pct.

Rob Hanks is an inside sales representative at Suttle-Straus and has more than 30 years of experience in direct mail. Rob is a Certified Direct Mail Professional and a Certified Mail Piece Design Professional though the United States Postal Service and serves as the National Industry Co-Chairperson for the Postal Customer Council Advisory Committee (PCCAC). Rob enjoys the challenges of mail piece design within postal regulations and helping clients save on postage costs.

This article originally appeared in the March/April, 2024 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.