What you can learn from my ruined pants

Laundry Symbols
How many of these clothing care labels do you understand? I can guess the bottom right — hand wash, but others are Greek to me. Every time I do my laundry I debate whether it’s worth flipping through the 4pt type on the clothing tags, to correctly wash an item. Nah, no time, too much work. So I usually test my luck and hope I guess right. Well … that’s how I ruined my favorite pants!

This brings me to a critical question for all of us: Are we losing many prospects because we make them work too hard to get our message?

Whether it’s a logo, direct mail, an email, or a website, the primary goal of good design is the same: clarity, for quick communication. That’s why, when I start a project, I always aim for a strong statement of my client’s message with the least amount of content and design elements. My mantra for today’s “instant information” world: Less is More.

So now, let’s look at those laundry symbols again. They’re simple. They’re clean (pun intended). But some fail at instant interpretation … leading me to my next question: How can we make sure our creatives are easily – and quickly – understood?

My answer: Clarity Testing. Basically, it’s asking people who are unfamiliar with the project to do a test run of your creative. This way, you can step out of your bubble and get an unbiased preview of how those in your target audience might respond to your team’s hard work. Benefit to you: You can tweak where needed now and possibly raise your ROI later.

Consider doing a Clarity Test on:

LOGOS: When you present your design and tagline, take note: Can people understand in seconds (yes, seconds) what your company’s mission is? If not, pow-wow with your designer – pronto!

DIRECT MAIL / EMAILS: To up your response rate, give all your components a reality check: See how people respond to various elements. For example:  calls-to-action. Do a few versions of the reply form, and test which gets the most attention.

Consider doing a Usability Test on:

WEBSITES: Usability Testing is a twin of Clarity Testing. The web development team observes people participating in a test drive of your website to answer questions like: Where might users get lost or confused? What information is actually being read? What engages enough for users to click through?

Losing promotion dollars (or your favorite pants) isn’t funny. Want some free guidance in sorting out what can work for you from someone with proven know-how?  I’m offering a complimentary 30-minute review of your future creative, no strings attached. Contact me here. Happy laundering!

The laundry icons clockwise, starting at the top left: tumble dry low/cool; only non-chlorine bleach; drip dry; hand wash; iron medium temperature. To learn more symbols visit this webpage

A Panhandler’s Trick You Might Profit From

Recently, I was struck by how marketing savvy a panhandler was on the NYC subway. Like all panhandlers who enter a quiet subway car, he assured straphangers that he did not want money for drugs but for food. What really made me take notice was what he said next:

“I am envisioning a Shake Shack hamburger,
fries and soda.”

Panhandler dreaming of a burger

Smart move! The panhandler revealed how he was going to use the money — just to buy a simple, inexpensive meal. So now his captive audience could put a specific monetary value to his ask: about $10. And as he walked around the car to see if anyone’s heart would open, guess what happened — a young woman handed him 10 bucks.

Wow, his marketing tactic worked! If this panhandler had not relayed a picture of what he wanted, he still might have gotten some loose change, but probably nothing like $10.

My takeaway: I couldn’t help but see how this transaction relates to tactics used by nonprofits to increase donations. I call it Transparency Impact. When you list in your direct mail (or email) exactly how the money would be used with a dollar amount next to it, it helps you gain a level of trust. This transparency lets the potential donor know where their hard-earned money can directly help, thereby translating into higher giving amounts.

For example: Say you are trying to raise money for a school in a third-world country. You may list:

$10 will help purchase books
$30 will buy a knapsack
$100 will pay for one child’s tuition

Don’t you feel more inclined to give when you see the direct impact of your donation?

I sure hope the $10 the panhandler received bought him a nice meal at Shake Shack. It’s fun to see how direct mail tactics can be used, even by people you least expect to use them!

A Powerful, New USPS® Direct Marketing Tool

INFORMED DELIVERY® by the USPS® is an exciting new marketing tool for direct marketers that:

  • Offers an email open rate of 70% (USPS data)*
  • Generates multiple impressions from a single mailpiece (digital + physical)*
  • Drives consumer response with interactive content related to mailpiece*
  • Can potentially increase your ROI*

To help my clients and colleagues gain insight into the benefits of INFORMED DELIVERY and learn how one can get started I spoke with Adam Avrick, President of Design Distributors one of the top direct mail suppliers in the country. Read below to see the answers Adam gave me to my many questions…

MERYL: Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is INFORMED DELIVERY?
It’s a service one can sign up with from the U.S. Postal Service, where first thing in the morning, people receive an email that lets them digitally preview in black & white their mail (see image above) and manage packages scheduled to arrive soon. This information is also accessible on the USPS website and INFORMED DELIVERY Apps.

MERYL: Is this service available nationwide? And how many people have signed up?
As of February 5, 2019, there are  15,000,000 people signed up.

MERYL: Is the U.S. Postal Service actively promoting INFORMED DELIVERY to get even more consumers to sign up?
Yes, and it’s also growing organically.

MERYL: How would this help direct marketers?
It’s a new marketing tool. Businesses and nonprofits that are mailing can supply full color interactive content that will ride along with the digital preview. This enhances the customer call-to-action and reinforces a direct marketer’s message. It also allows the message to be changed and enhanced while the mail is en route. The possibilities are endless.

MERYL: Can you give me a specific example of how it would benefit direct marketers?
Let’s say a nonprofit organization that focuses on disaster recovery has a spring appeal with us (the printer) and it will be mailing in the next couple of days. Then an earthquake brings destruction to an area. Wouldn’t it be great to tie that occurrence to the spring appeal? Now they can with INFORMED DELIVERY. A message can be added here to let the recipient know. This is called a ride-along.

MERYL: The image below is an example taken from a USPS PDF of a ride-along. Could you please explain it more, so everyone is clear.
A ride-along can be a clickable button with a call to action, or anything that would enhance the direct mail piece you are sending. The image below also shows how you can swap out the grayscale image with a new color image.

MERYL: Can a marketer know who on their list is using INFORMED DELIVERY?
The USPS is very careful of any information that they share with a marketer. To start out though, they will allow you to upload your mailing list and they will run it against the current registrants. They will tell you how many people on your file are registered with Informed Delivery, however they won’t tell you who they are.

MERYL: Can a marketer gain any significant data?
Each marketer will receive a report that provides the general results of an individual campaign. It includes information on the number of physical mailpieces processed, the number of users/mail recipients that were sent an email, the email open rate, and the number of click-throughs.

MERYL: How does a marketer get started? Is there a cost?
 They can sign up on the USPS website. Currently there isn’t any cost to use the system. My company, Design Distributors, is happy to assist with the setup. Or, Meryl, I’m sure you can help them also.

MERYL: I and others are amazed how this works. Can you please briefly tell us the technology behind it?
 To begin with, every piece of First Class Mail gets scanned when it arrives at the Post Office. INFORMED DELIVERY  just builds on that. Now, to be able to sync the color image or ride-along image you need to add mail.dat. Mail.dat is data generated by me (your printer) that I supply to the Post Office after I presort your mail. This data then needs to be added to your INFORMED DELIVERY job. Once that is done, images that go along with the mailpiece are synced up.

MERYL: For personal use, why should someone sign up for it?
It’s very helpful in a variety of ways. It’s a great way to know when specific bills, credit cards, and important pieces of mail are arriving. In addition, if there are mail offers that you look forward to seeing you will know when they are arriving. Helps you keep an eye out!

MERYL: Anything else you would like to add?
INFORMED DELIVERY is a win-win, for the both marketers and recipients. For some of the Gen X people who may have a hesitancy to go to the mailbox each day this product can certainly draw them there more frequently.

MERYL: Thanks, Adam, for all this great information!

Clients and colleagues: If you have any additional questions, or would like assistance getting started, let us know. Below you can find several useful links.

Adam Advick
President, Design Distributors
Offering the most diverse lettershop and printing services in the New York Metropolitan area. They handle client programs from the time the artwork is received until it hits the mailbox.

Meryl Randman
Creative Director, Meryl Randman LLC
Contact Meryl



INFORMED DELIVERY App available free for iOS, Android, and Windows.

*According to https://www.usps.com/business/pdf/informed-delivery-overview.pdf

An Easy Trick to check U.S. Letter Mail Aspect Ratio

Here is an easy trick to check U.S. letter mail aspect ratio. Just divide the width of your envelope or postcard by the height. If your results are great than 1.3 and less than 2.5 you are good.

Why is letter mail aspect ratio important? It’s the key to getting the lowest postage rate, by ensuring the package can run through the USPS automated mailing equipment. When considering the aspect ratio you must also follow the sizing guidelines from the USPS.

Please use this as a guide only. To make sure that your documents follow the proper sizing guidelines check with your local post office.