For Direct Mail, Don’t Forget About the Fold

By | February 16, 2011

By leveraging current technology, marketers can use print as a way to create a dialogue in B2C communications. Send an email, then a targeted print piece with a PURL, a microsite or QR code to increase points of contact and gather more information about the customer’s interests. In doing this, they’re saying goodbye to the old-school “spray and pray” direct mail methodology and choosing to spend more on the piece to ensure its visibility and return on investment. So what does folding have to do with it? Successful direct mail involves the alignment of several variables, and choice of folding style is one of these variables, however so is color palette, text and imagery, paper choice, layout, format and even schedule. Below is a list of questions addressing machinability for direct mail. I’ll be posting in the future about envelope choice, tips, tricks and techniques to help you get the most out of your DM investment.

Is one fold better than another at getting the most into a standard letter envelope?

Not really. There are always different configurations for folding paper that can get a very large amount of information into a compact size. When designing for folded materials, what is most important is to focus on the organization and reveal of the content so that it does not confuse the recipient, and the placement of critical marketing messages. I always suggest that you mock up your layout and hand it to a few people to make sure the message is properly communicated. If your small test group doesn’t get it, your mailing audience won’t get it, either, and you should rework your layout and test again.

What are the most effective machinable folds for direct mail?

The key to successful machine production for direct mail is closed edges. Perfect example – the accordion fold is notoriously problematic for both self-mailing and for auto-inserting. The trouble is caused by the format—accordions don’t have a closed edge. The open sides make it very difficult, if not impossible, to auto insert, and if it’s self-mailing it’ll need four tabs to seal both sides. Expensive and unattractive. However, if you choose a wrapped accordion (see illustration), you get the accordion experience you’re looking for with its pull-out panels, but you also get a closed edge, which changes the tab requirement and offers a closed edge for inserting. So, sometimes you can get what you want with a little creativity.

How important is machinability for direct mail?

I’ll answer a question with a question: How important is it that you don’t throw money away? I see it all the time—a really great design built in a format that instantly adds a .20 per piece non-machinable surcharge to the mailing budget. Why???? I have samples in my collection that miss USPS aspect ratio by 1/8 inch. It’s silly. What a mindless and costly mistake. In my opinion, there are two things to consider when talking about machine production—machinability of the fold and machinability for mailing. Unless you don’t care at all about the budget, ideally, you should aim for a maximum of one of the two options, but never both. For example, if you’re printing a fairly short run, you may choose a unique folding style that has to be hand folded, but you should try to produce it in a format that is within USPS aspect ratio. Or, similar scenario, design a machinable fold in a square format if you must, however, your most efficient solution will always be machinable fold in a machinable mail format.


Editors Note:  You can find more ideas from Trish at the foldfactory 3-D sample library and watch short videos of hundreds of folding ideas that will be sure to add some variety to the everyday. 

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One thought on “For Direct Mail, Don’t Forget About the Fold

  1. Michael

    As a graphic designer for a direct mail company I live the argument of creativity vs. cost every day. It is important to keep the cost of a direct mail campaign low, but it doesn’t matter how cheap your mailing is if no one reads it. Thanks for the article.

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