3 Tips to Deal With the Sticky Business of Direct Mail

Even if you don’t write, design or send a lot of direct mail, you need to read this. It’s about why you should pay attention to stickiness when creating and mailing formats the USPS requires to be tabbed, wafer sealed spot or (ugh) continuously glued.

Even if you don’t write, design or send a lot of direct mail, you need to read this. It’s about why you should pay attention to stickiness when creating and mailing formats the USPS requires to be tabbed, wafer sealed spot or (ugh) continuously glued.

According to the USPS Quick Service Guide 201b on page 15 (opens as a PDF), “Unenveloped letter-size mailpieces prepared for machinable or automation mailings must be sealed or glued completely along all four sides (or unsealed edges) or cured (tabbed) to prevent an open edge from jamming high-speed processing equipment. Standards for tabbing folded self-mailers, booklets, or postcards are based on basis weight of paper stock used and the location of the folded or bound edge. As an alternative to tabs or wafer seals, the open edge of the length of single-sheet self-mailers and postcards, and specific booklet designs, may be continuously glued or spot glued.”

Whew. This means to qualify for postal automation discounts, direct marketers have to do something that’s counter-intuitive for us and almost guaranteed to depress response. We have to purposely make it difficult to open our mailpieces. (But we can feel good about doing it because we’re saving money.)

Seriously? Yes, seriously.

In 2007, I devoted my November Target Marketing column to the topic of stickiness. Seven years later, not much has changed. I continue to receive mailpieces tabbed, sealed and fugitive glued so securely that even a highly motivated customer like me can’t open them without tearing them in the process.

Tip No. 1: If your mailpiece doesn’t get opened, it doesn’t get read and doesn’t generate response. So we need to figure out ways to encourage readers to slit tabs and pry open glued edges.
It happened again yesterday. My new Murad skin care catalog arrived at the same time I received a Murad self-mailer promising me in bold type, “$25 Gift Inside.” I felt a card inside, so I was happy to open it. After much frustration, I finally got it ripped opened and there was the $25 card. Then I ripped through three wafer seals to start shopping in the catalog. Fortunately for Murad and me, I managed to do all this with minimal damage to the card and catalog. Here’s why that detail is important:

Tip No. 2: The minute your mailpiece gets ripped, torn or mangled, it looks less valuable, less eye-catching, and less intriguing. As a damaged good, it’s much more likely to end up in the trash.
Also, the more time spent fighting to open a mailpiece, the less likely it is to get opened and read. Are you familiar with direct mail’s three minute and 33 second (3:33) rule? It’s important when you talk about openability.

The 3:33 rule suggests you have three seconds or less to stand out in the mail and stay out of the trash, then 30 seconds to engage the reader enough to get opened and make the “short stack” for later reading. After the first 33 seconds — if you actually get the reader inside your mailpiece — she spends an additional three minutes or less reading and deciding whether or not to respond.

This rule applies more to solos and self-mailers than to catalogs, which typically have a longer shelf life, but the same principles apply. If in those first few all-important seconds of engagement you create openability problems, your sales message is much more likely to get trashed unread.

Tip No. 3: Challenge your writers and designers to create mailpieces that are easy and rewarding to open in spite of the tab, seal or glue. Draw attention to how to get inside. Make it fun to take the extra steps. And when using fugitive glue, get samples of glued pieces and try opening them. Tabbing, sealing and gluing aren’t just production issues. Marketing needs to weigh in, too.

As direct marketers in the mail, we need to find creative solutions that 1) meet USPS requirements, 2) save us money on postage 3) AND make it easy and engaging for our customers.

Please stick with me on this. Post your ideas below or share them on Twitter @pfwriter.

Pat Friesen is the author of the best-selling Direct Marketing IQ report, “The Cross-Channel Copywriting Handbook.” She writes for direct mail, email, blogs, catalogs, the Web and other direct response media. She’s also a sought-after copy coach, workshop presenter and columnist for Target Marketing magazine. Contact Pat at (913) 341-1211 and Pat@PatFriesen.com.

Author: Pat Friesen

Pat Friesen is a direct response copywriter, content developer, copy coach and creative strategist. She is also the author of "The Cross-Channel Copywriting Handbook," published by Direct Marketing IQ. Reach her at (913) 341-1211.

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