Tips to avoid damaged direct mail
Ways to minimize the automation damage of your mailers at the Post Office
Anyone who produces a lot of direct mail may have experienced the disappointment of a piece passing through the Post Office. Let's face it, a piece often looks beautiful before it is mailed, and then you receive the sample you mailed yourself just to see the self-mailer or postcard scuffed and marked and looking like it passed through a war zone.
Printing Industries of America (PIA) recently defined the problem and suggested several design considerations to keep in mind when the piece in question is a postcard or self-mailer.
First, marking and scuffing generally occur more frequently on the "message" side, rather than on address side. The image below illustrates the area of your design where you should be most careful.
We had a postcard the other day that had the scuffing in the opposite corner, it looks like it was run upside down: It seems the postal equipment is capable of running right side up or upside down.
Varnish and aqueous coatings can reduce but do not eliminate the scuffing that occurs.
Direct mail can go out in envelopes to offer the most protection, translucent and clear envelopes allow the recipient to see the mail piece design before the envelope is even opened. This adds some cost, consult with us about pricing if this option may fit your project.
PIA makes three design suggestions to minimize the effects of marking and scuffing:
1. Avoid darker colors. Lighter colors will not show the effects of marking as dramatically, since they blend more closely into the white of the paper should the ink be marked.
2. Avoid large solids. Break the design up with smaller design elements.
3. Understand where most marking occurs. Review the illustration above and keep this in mind during your design.You can also add a UV coating. We would add that you should consider specifying a UV coating when printing postcards, folded self mailers and other items in the letter mail category. There are a number of finish options in terms of look, and the UV coating will protect it from scuffing at the Post Office. Please reference the article on UV coating finishes coming out in late May 2021.
No one likes seeing their mailer compromised by damage from postal automation equipment. Keeping these considerations in mind may improve the chances that your mailers won't fall victim to such an outcome!
PIA scuffing rankings
PIA went on to rank the seriousness of scuffing, setting four levels of scuffing and one for torn mail. Note that only a tiny percentage of mailed pieces get level four or are torn during processing.
Level 1 Scuffing/Source: PIA
Level 2 Scuffing/Source: PIA
Level 3 Scuffing/Source: PIA
Level 4 Scuffing/Source: PIA
Torn Mail/Source: PIA