Contributed by  Dean Rieck, Copywriter / Consultant from Direct Creative

The down economy has killed a lot of the fun and creativity of direct mail in the last few years.

But if my phone is any indication (the plastic is melting from all the calls), the economy is getting ready to roar back to life.

So I thought I’d dive into my big stack of stuff and pull out some envelope samples to give you a little inspiration and maybe help you summon the courage to test something beyond yet another postcard or cheap self-mailer.

These are in no particular order. I just rifled through my sample file and pulled out anything that struck my fancy today. I’ve made each envelope sample as big as I could, so the proportions are not accurate here.

Here’s a classic direct mail envelope for a recipe book. Lots of color and excitement with a token showing through a window to encourage involvement.

This is one of my favorites, selling a conservative newspaper. Dead simple design with a focus on the bold headline and teaser copy. And yes, another token.

A few years ago, the USPS began allowing sticky notes on envelopes. It instantly turns an ordinary envelope like this into something that’s hard to ignore. In this case, the sticky is a personal message.

Here’s a more recent sample from the 2008 election. In political fundraising, this is fairly common: send a survey to likely supporters and tack on a donation request. The envelope catches your eye with its color and official-looking type. Also notice how the recipient’s congressional district is featured to push the official feel.

I absolutely love this envelope from Direct Marketing Marketplace. It’s an idea I’ve been wanting to use for a few of my clients. It’s meant to look like old-fashioned inter-office correspondence, where you pass the information from person to person. It’s an eye-catcher, though this example misses an opportunity by not using the names of marketing celebrities.

Here’s an oldie but goodie from Consumer Reports. The envelope has a quality, ribbed feel and long copy that provides details on the offer inside. Nothing fancy. No clever teasers. I always admire simple ideas like this.

In the old days, real snap packs had carbon paper on the inside. Personal information would be typed right through the exterior and print on a sheet inside. Today, you don’t need the carbon paper, but you can still use a faux snap pack look to enclose whatever contents you like. It’s a unique envelope choice that creates a lot of involvement.

Finally, here’s an urgent mail envelope. This one is a copyrighted product, but you can create infinite variations for official and urgent looking mail. In this case, the design is printed on heavy stock, however I’ve done designs like this on regular paper. You should be careful to use an idea like this for something that warrants such an urgent feel.

Feeling inspired? I am.

Trust me. Direct mail is coming back and it won’t be long before you decide to start testing bigger and more exciting packages again. Many of my clients are already doing it. So don’t be caught eating your competitor’s dust.

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