Direct Mail Products

What Startups Can Tell Us About Direct Mail

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2020 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness as of July 2023.

Quick – name some of your favorite companies that love to use direct mail.

Are any of them startups?

Many brands have built their businesses by being disruptors in their industries. Even better – they’re hip, hot, and savvy. And a surprising number of them use direct mail marketing to stand out, convert new customers, and build loyalty.

Why? Two big reasons.

First, they know that mail can help them reach prospects who might otherwise be missed by digital channels like the web, email, or social media. Not everyone is a digital-first consumer.

Even digital natives like Millennials and Generation Z have to deal with inboxes that are overflowing with promotions, bills, receipts, newsletters, and more. Add to this digital picture social media microtargeting, popups in videos and apps – it seems like it never ends.

Second, they understand that print – ink on paper – is powerful. A brand on a screen works on only two senses: sight and sound. Paper, though, comes in many different sizes, shapes, weights, textures, and finishes. Print gives customers another way to experience and interact with your brand marketing.

Here are a few examples of startups that create standout direct mail communications.

HelloFresh focuses on benefits

HelloFresh, the largest meal-kit provider in the United States, mailed a campaign that wants to make its prospects’ lives as easy as possible. To start with, the outer envelope’s big opaque showcase window teases an $80 discount response card tipped to a brochure inside. Who wouldn’t be intrigued enough to open it?

Inside, ingredients like lots of green (the brand color) and appetizing food photos set the table for the customer. One panel lays out the simple choice of 3 meal plans (veggie, classic, and family) with a short caption describing the dishes.

In a vertical spread, HelloFresh presents the main benefit of its service in a headline: “Spend less time MAKING and more time Enjoying.” Subheads – each with an icon and some copy – break the pitch down into individual benefits: simplicity, convenience, and variety. takes on customer skepticism

Vitamins have long been a popular category in direct mail marketing, with promotions using lots of copy in big type, “expert” claims and guarantees, and confusing diagrams.

Ritual’s approach is different. On this postcard, it shows two clear supplements positioned between two fingers. Against a backdrop of the brand’s colors, the headline is simple and direct: “This is not a miracle.”

The spare design uses the white space on the card to focus the reader on introducing the benefits of its Essential for Women supplement. Icons represent how its nutrients aid heart, brain, bone, and blood health. And a major pain point of many vitamins – nausea  – is likewise mentioned with a single line.

Bombas connects mission to its merchandise

Lots of companies sell socks, so what makes Bombas special? The apparel company’s unique selling proposition (USP) is right there on the front panel of this folded self-mailer: comfort. “The only socks you’ll want to wear this summer,” the headline claims. Above, a photo of someone wearing one of the “no show” socks. And that’s about it.

The customer can discover more inside about the socks and the introductory discount on the inside. Panels have spreads that include diagrams on the innovative construction of the retailer’s socks and show different sock colors.

Customers also learn about the business practice that earned Bombas a B Corporation certification: For each pair of socks sold, the company gives a pair to homeless causes, with over 20 million donated to date.

Wrapping it up

These three direct mail efforts help each of these companies explain or show part of their stories, who they are as brands.

Not every direct mail marketing piece can do that. As the printed expression of your brand, your mailing has to be well-designed, target the right audience, and make the right offer to fulfill its purpose: driving response.

Keep things simple with a single, easy-to-understand offer or incentive that the consumer doesn’t have to work hard to find.

Self-mailers, postcards, and letters have many simple, classic ways to grab and keep your customers’ attention and motivate them to act. Short headlines, interesting and high-quality images, and smart strategy can make a big difference in creating successful direct mail.

At, our printing experts will work with you to help you tell your brand’s stories. We can suggest the best options given your brand’s individual campaign goals as well as your budget. 

Please reach out to us! We’d love to show you how you can put today’s direct mail to work in your next campaign.

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