Getting your message read

“Ultimately, without an enticing message appeal, the opportunity to make a sale is potentially lost.”

A study published in the Journal of Marketing Communications found:  “It is interesting to note that the three message appeals categories that significantly influence envelope opening intention, deal with the relational aspect of direct marketer recipient interaction and a feeling of importance, gratitude, and the intrigue or the curiosity factor using non-price incentive (i.e. ’let’s see what is inside’).  In contrast, the three insignificant message appeals clusters are more transactional — do it now (urgency), only for you (exclusiveness), and price incentive. These indicate that direct marketers should look at direct marketing pieces as a tool for building relationships with the recipients, where some of the commonly understood social relational norms play a stronger role than transactional oriented factors. Ultimately, without an enticing message appeal the opportunity to make a sale is potentially lost.”

The study concentrated on mailing envelopes and what compels people to open them, but it could also be applied to postcards and people’s willingness to respond to an offer. It was concluded that certain elements had the best results: (shown in no particular order)

  • importance (e.g., ‘confidential’, ‘first notice’)
  • urgency (e.g., ‘offer expires soon’)
  • potential price incentive (e.g., ‘are you paying too much’, ‘no fees’)
  • potential non-price incentive (e.g., ‘sweepstakes’, ‘coupon inside’)
  • exclusiveness (e.g., ‘preferred customers only’, ‘special offer’)
  • gratitude (e.g., ‘we appreciate your business’, ‘thank you’)
  • personalized (e.g., handwritten name and address, a stamp, return address is for an individual)
  • official (e.g., designed to create a feeling of ‘something important and non-trivial)
  • standardized (e.g., addressed to the recipient in an impersonal way)

Out of the six envelope message appeals only three were shown to have a significant association with the intention to open the direct mail envelope, and those were messages that created a feeling of importance, gratitude, and an anticipation of non-price incentive.

Messages that created a feeling of urgency, exclusiveness, as well as anticipation of price incentive did not exhibit a significant association with consumers’ intent to open the direct mail envelope.

For envelope characteristics, all three factors (e.g., personalized, official, standardized) have significant positive effects on the envelope opening intention.

Compiled from a study by:
By Clinton Amos (Ph.D., University of North Texas) and Audhesh Paswan (Ph.D., University of Mississippi)
Source: Journal of Marketing Communications, Vol. 15(4), September 2009, 247-265.


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Commercial & digital printing, graphic design, direct mail, mailing services, promotional products all located under one name, Printing Partners - Indianapolis, Indiana. Printing Partners is FSC Certified and is a G7 Master Printer.
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