Playing Offense with Format Rotation 

Author: Steve Schoenborn, Account Executive


Everyone has a favorite season and for me, it’s fall. I enjoy the cooler weather (especially after enduring a hot summer), the comfort of jeans and a sweatshirt, the changing colors, golf, and especially the long-awaited football season. Now you might be thinking, “what does football have to do with direct mail format rotation?”

When it comes to football, do you ever get frustrated with your favorite football team’s offense because you feel like the plays they run are too predictable? When the plays are the same time and time again, the defense knows what’s coming, and when that occurs your team’s chance of winning is greatly diminished. The same occurs when format fatigue sets in for a mail piece.

What is Format Fatigue?

When marketers send the same piece of mail to consumers, again and again, format fatigue sets in. Once a consumer has seen the same mail piece multiple times in less than a 6-month period, they most likely don’t even open it. They’ve seen it before, know what to expect, and they no longer give it attention. This can be avoided when marketers build up their offensive strategy with format rotation.

What is Format Rotation?

For marketers that mail frequently to the same audience, developing and rotating a stable of control formats is critical to reducing package/format fatigue. Although it’s difficult to pin down specific industry statistics, we all know that format fatigue is real and measurable. As a result, we typically recommend a testing process to develop multiple effective controls that, at minimum, vary in some physical fashion. For example, a strong rotation for a monthly DM program could include a #10 package, a 6 x 9 package, a folded self-mailer, and a monarch-sized package.

Methods of Format Rotation

As mentioned above, the physical size of a mail piece is one way to switch up the format design. Other options include alternating imagery, messaging, as well as switching from a branded design to blind or a sophisticated design vs. promotional. Rotating the controls from one mailing to the next will help keep your audience’s attention and entice them to interact with your direct mail. Changing the look and feel of the content is also recommended. You can change the layout of the content by moving the sidebar, changing the look and/or location of the offer and changing the call to action, etc.

Marketers don’t have to call trick plays to be successful, but sometimes you need to mix in a reverse or a play action pass or a screen pass to keep the defense honest. Just be smart, follow testing best practices to establish a solid rotation of controls, and keep your audience on their toes.

If you’re looking for help in developing and/or expanding your rotation of controls, the Nahan team is here to help. Reach out today!

Looking for a Unique Take on Direct Mail? Try the Peek Fold Format!

Author: Laura Karels, Lead Designer

Check out our spin on a traditional direct mail format with the peek fold format. You’ll grab your recipient’s attention with a personalized headline as the first thing they see when they pull this peek folded letter out of the envelope. The longer form allows for a traditional letter using direct mail best practices along with extra real estate for a branded or promotional panel.

  • Unique folded letter peeks a large headline at the top
  • 14” long form for additional real estate
  • Tip on card for a tactile feel
  • 6” x 9” envelope stands out in the mailbox
  • Options: Fold style can be incorporated on other size formats

Watch the short video below to see the peek fold format in action!

For more inspiration, check out our other format ideas, including a double gate mailer, iron cross mailer, and 5 panel rollfold mailer.

Bio: Laura Karels is our Lead Designer. She is responsible for all things direct marketing design—from format sketches to final art—and truly enjoys the creative process of helping clients develop winning direct marketing campaigns. In her spare time, Laura enjoys great coffee and cross-country road trips with her family. She’s also getting really good at finding humor in her husband bringing home yet another “project” vehicle.