I love this Reagan ad. The name that people will need to remember in the voting booth is clear, big, bold and prominent. The message is the only other text, underscoring its importance, and each word of it has been purposefully and thoughtfully weighed. The photograph depicts a man who is not simply smiling phonily straight into the camera, but rather a man who is postured pensively, with a serious but pleasant expression – it arouses an emotion of care and concern, and his eye pierce right through the camera in such a way that the viewer feels like Ronald Reagan is actually looking at him, making direct eye contact and communicating silently through it. And finally, the deep blue color choice is perfect for evoking a calm serenity that subconsciously sets the viewer’s mind at ease.
In a great direct mail piece, these four components, name, message, photographs and color, work together seamlessly to make an impression on the voter in the most succinct, effective manner possible. The most important factor to consider when designing direct mail is that the recipient of your hard work will most likely throw it away within 30 to 60 seconds of retrieving it from the mailbox. Therefore, you need to make the most of those precious seconds.
Putting your candidate’s name prominently and attractively in the most obvious place on the mail piece is the single most important factor. If nothing else is gained from producing the piece, you want to reinforce your name recognition in the voter’s mind. If you simply sent a plain white postcard with “Vote Smith” on both sides and absolutely nothing else, you would have produced a mail piece more effective 90% of the direct mail sent and received in America.
Crafting your message is the first and most important part of writing an effective campaign plan, so you should already have this piece of the puzzle figured out before you ever get to the point of crafting direct mail. Your campaign message should be concise, and every single word must be not just a good word, but the perfect word for telling the voters why they should vote for you.
Whether you use an action shot, a family portrait, or a headshot, the imagery you choose should convey the same message and conjure the same feelings as your campaign message. It serves no good purpose to have a solemn, serious campaign message under a picture of a goofy-smiled, fun-loving looking dude. It’s a mixed message. Your image and your message need to compliment, not contradict, each other.
A lot of campaign people overlook the importance of color. Some demand that their mail pieces match their chosen campaign colors. I feel that is completely unnecessary. Even if you don’t use a professional graphic designer to create your direct mail, take the time to do serious research into the art of color choice. It’s a proven fact that certain colors make people ‘feel’ certain ways. Red is angry or urgent (good for negative pieces, although I detest them), blue is calming, I’ve heard yellow makes people hungry (hence McDonald’s golden arches)!
If you’re investing a significant amount of campaign cash and effort into direct mail, it’s perfectly acceptable – and smart – to use professionals. But you don’t need a political consultant. You need a mail house – they can print and mail your piece fast and cheap, often using bulk rates and slashing postage costs nearly in half.
You also need a graphic designer. Some advice for using a designer: listen to him! So many campaigns spend tons of moolah hiring a professional and then they don’t want to hear his opinion at all, they just want him to draft up what’s already in their heads. If you’re going to go to the expense, trust his experience and taste. Trust me, a graphic designer knows more than you about what works and what doesn’t. When you meet with your graphic designer, tell him the headline (your message), give him your photo if you’ve already chosen it, and let him know that you want the name to be very prominent, and give him an idea of the emotion you are trying to capture. Then let him use his own creativity to come up with a design that accomplishes those goals.