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Make 2-D DM a 3-D Experience

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Just like good parents, as agency creatives, we love all our projects equally. But, we have the most fun when clients ask us to create 3D packages. After all, who doesn't like stuff? And, when it comes to mailing stuff, we've seen — and mailed — it all.

Recently, we designed a package with a 6-inch bale of hay that had a (plastic) needle sticking out of it. ("Needle in a haystack," get it?) We sent a magic wooden box that was a challenge to open (there was candy inside, as well as our client's brochure). We sent an elaborate first aid kit, an identity theft-proof wallet, a magnetic desktoy, 50 smiley face buttons, a Swiss army knife, glow in the dark stars, a champagne bottle filled with jelly beans, a model race car, a personalized silver-plated computer mouse, a Magic 8 ball, and even ... a Twinkie.

Yes, we once created a fun (and very effective) campaign around a Twinkie.

What these campaigns had in common was a small, targeted audience, and a big-ticket product or solution. If you're selling enterprise software for $800,000, you can afford to send a $25 direct mail package.

But, what if you're not?

3D packages aren't just fun; they're effective. According to the DMA, they outperform standard (2D) formats by 250%, but only increase the cost per lead by 50%. That's good math. But, again, only if it makes sense for your audience and product.

The free gift is definitely a big reason why 3D campaigns do so well. But, another reason is that they are so tactile. The touch-ability factor makes them extremely engaging. And, that's something you can take advantage of with a much leaner budget. For example:

• Consider unusual stocks or finishes. A flat piece of mail that feels like slick glass or soft suede is going to stand out against plain paper. (It may also get shared, passed along, or held onto.)

• Print on wood, plastic, or thin metal.

• Insert multiple sized pieces into your envelope. Give them lots of different items to interact with.

• Think about unusual shapes or die-cuts. We sent out two pieces (for different clients) that were diecut to look like a hazardous waste scanner and a giant mobile phone. They were tactile and very effective — and they didn't break the bank.

• Come up with creative folds. We've had great results with "red-cross mailers." Not only do they stand out, but they allow you to serve up your marketing copy in a controlled, sequential way.

• Mail your flat piece in a Mylar envelope or a jiffy bag. We once converted bubble wrap and used that as our envelope. (And who can resist popping bubble wrap? Not us.)

• Make it a scent-sory experience. Try scented printing or add a "scratch and sniff" element. Choose from ink based on foods, florals, or scents that evoke some benefit of your product (we've seen ... er, that would be, smelled gasoline, suntan oil, and campfire).

Whether you have a big budget for an audience of 100 CEOs, or a modest budget for 450,000 cable subscribers, think about how your mail package can engage your audience. When you employ the irresistible power of touch, you're buying more time to tell your story, and sell your product.

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