Envelopes: Color of No Consequence?

Though hardly conclusive, a new case study from direct mail company Ballantine Corp. does put some numbers to an age-old question: Does envelope color affect response rates?

Lapham’s Quarterly, an uber-highbrow magazine “of history and ideas,” had been sending out the same No. 10 black envelope – containing lift note, reply card, accordion brochure and BRE – for a long time, before investigating if a white envelope might affect results.

So a similar mailing offering a $21 discount on a set of four issues was sent to 25,000 people in a white version of the traditional black envelope. The result: a nearly identical response rate. A similar test of 50,000 mailings is slated for sometime next month.

Whoa, whoa, whoa – what can we possibly conclude from this? How do we interpret a case study that fails to take into account the package design and the obscure – and, let’s be honest – dry nature of the publication?

As Ballantine points out, if your client gets the same response to a white envelope as a black one, there are savings to be had from the smaller amount of ink used to print it.

And perhaps the real takeaway is this: If you already have a preselected target audience that has already expressed interest in the product you’re advertising, you don’t necessarily have to wow them with the envelope. Save that vibrant new packaging for the new-customer recruitment drive.

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