New Trend in Direct Mail Advertisements?

I get a lot of direct mail advertisements where I live and I actually enjoy collecting and looking at the stuff I get. I like to see which direct mail pieces work and which don’t and which sizes catch my attention. Recently I received several direct mail pieces all in the same day that were varying in size but all square. I hadn’t received any square advertisements in a long time and my only guess is that some companies are trying new ways to get our attention.


I think the square advertisements do a better job at sticking out amongst the massive piles of mail people get. Once in a while I see some very customized pieces, but it all depends on the budget of the company. The simple change to a square format probably isn’t too expensive and I would guess they are seeing better results from it at least until that gets old too.

Start Your Own Direct Mail Collection!

I would recommend collecting pieces you get in the mail so you can start your own ephemera collection. Its nice to have physical pieces to look at for inspiration when you are working similar project and before you know it you will have a large collection including lots of great specialty printing pieces. Soon, you may find yourself collecting piece of ephemera from everywhere you go!

Has anyone else noticed a change in direct mail advertisements recently?

14 comments on “New Trend in Direct Mail Advertisements?”

  1. Kevin Reply

    80% of my day I spend outputting direct mail pieces for various companies. So far everything done here is all rectangle pieces. We have received some that were rather creative, such as match books.

    And actually the Postal Service has allowed for unusual shaped pieces to be mailed. so expect to see really weird shaped direct mail campaigns in the mail in the not so far future.

  2. Jake Reply

    I have collected direct mail pieces for awhile and specifically post cards. We all know post cards are a very hot item when it comes to direct mailing. It’s very interesting to see how budgets effect the look of a card. Amazingly though a lot of big corporations use the keep it simple stupid system or KISS. Just a little bit of info on the card and a big ole website to find out more.

    It’s amazing as designers how we can be the only ones that really “like” getting junk mail. Ha!

  3. Creadiv Reply

    The square mail does do a better job of getting my attention, but for the most part that is bad. When I get my mail I am looking for what I need not ads, so when something sticks out at me it is generally the first item to go in the recycling bin.

  4. benevolo Reply

    Anyone have more information on the new unusual mailing shapes allowed by the US Postal service?

  5. Gino Reply

    Yeah I think my opinion of direct mail is different obviously then a normal consumer because I actually enjoy looking at the flyers as a designer, but most people dislike them because they have no interest in it what so over. I do hate normal junk mail from credit card companies though!

    I swear I could fill a room with the amount of mail I have gotten from credit card companies.

    I also want to start collecting really cool business cards. I think I’m going to go into New York City some weekend and just do nothing but collect ephemera from big offices and design studios. =)

  6. Gino Reply

    Jacob – I actually plan on getting a better camera soon so I can take photographs of cool things I find related to graphic design, so thats something to keep an eye out for in the future.

  7. David S. Reply

    Jake, this cracked me up!
    “It’s amazing as designers how we can be the only ones that really “like” getting junk mail. Ha!”

    It’s good to know I’m not alone on this :P I tend to get weird looks from friends when I get excited over killer piece of “junk” mail.

    Back in my freelance days, I used to give clients a breakdown of their direct mail campaign cost. Then I’d go on to ask if they really wanted to spend $5,000 in postage to send out a 4×6 postcard that would basically get lost in the pack and get tossed out without a chance. The answer was obvious.

    On the printing side, I’ve definitely noticed that a lot of designers submitting square pieces. This is one of the reasons why we launched our custom U-Page product. I hate to see gang printers charging an arm-and-leg for custom sizes. In reality, you’re actually helping them fill up the gang with your odd size print, which may fit in a piece of a sheet that would otherwise go to waste.

  8. Mick Reply

    thought I’d add my 2 cents to the direct mail discussion as I work for a full-service marketing, creative, and printing company and have developed some knowledge of the market over the last few years.

    In regards to actual size/proportions of the mailer itself, odd or non-rectangular sizes can create quite an impact visually and can create a better ROI than a traditional postcard…for a price.

    Often the most significant issue with a square or oddly shaped mailer is often the surcharge and/or extra postage the USPS charges for the non-machine-able size. You can mail just about anything via USPS as long as you pay enough for postage and any additional surcharges for them to handle odd or different sized pieces.

    One other rather inexpensive idea I’ve come across is to round corner the mailing piece, which the USPS in the last year newly allowed as a machine-able mailer with little or no add’l surcharge. One of our largest direct mail clients has found this to be a good way to make their pieces stand out from the crowd of direct mail pieces that end up in your mail box and gladly pays the extra bindery cost to have this done for most of their campaigns.

    there’s my 2 (and possibly more) cents. enjoy!

  9. Mark G. Reply

    Perhaps, the first job of a designer is to let their client know junk mail is a bad idea.

  10. Gino Reply

    Great post Mick that was very informative and I love your rounded corners idea. I have seen this done with business cards, but I can’t remeber ever seen anything in the mail with rounded corners.

    I also think the quality of the paper you use can really make a big impact a well.

    I found a flyer yesterday that was printed on some really nice matte card stock and it had a really nice texture to it and it just felt more expensive and looked higher quality which I think can work wonder in terms of branding and what people associate with the companies name.

  11. Gino Reply

    mark G. – I think junk mail becomes junk mail when you are advertising a product to some one who has no interest what so ever in that product.

    I know this is a general statement, but I think direct mail can work wonders if its don’t right and you don’t abuse it by sending advertisments to people on your list every week.

    As a consumer I don’t mind receiving flyers announcing sales and such from places I actually shop at, but I do get annoyed when credit card companies send me offers multiple times a week.

    So I think its a fine line between whether something is considered junk mail or not, but I do think direct mail campaigns can be important for certain types of businesses.

  12. Xen Reply

    Direct mail designer here! :)

    The odd-shaped mailings are called CMM (Customized MarketMail). We’ve done several odd-shaped die-cut pieces and they’re really neato!

    There are higher postage rates & size limitations, though. BUT they lowered the postage considerably last year on these.

    Info from USPS site here:

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