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Envelope or Postcard? Which Format Works Best?

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You’re sitting down to create your next direct mail campaign. Should you use an envelope or a postcard? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of both formats.

Why an Envelope?

Envelopes cost more to produce and mail than postcards do. Lead times are generally longer, too. But there are some significant benefits.

  1. You can tell a more detailed, complex story. The typical envelope mailing contains an outer envelope, letter, brochure, optional lift note, and reply card. Using multiple elements allows you to provide more detail and give recipients a deeper look.
  2. Readers are more engaged. The act of opening the envelope creates a level of engagement not present with postcards. Envelope mailings can also incorporate interactive elements, such as foldouts, sliders, and other dimensional components.
  3. The mailing feels more personal. Envelopes inherently seem more personal, especially when you use real stamps.
  4. You can offer greater privacy and security. Buyers love their privacy. Envelopes protect their personal information and provide confidentiality.

Why a Postcard?

With so many benefits to envelopes, why use postcards?


You don’t have as much space and unless you are sending recipients to personalized URLs, they don’t offer the confidentiality of envelopes. However, postcards have some real advantages:

  1. You can’t miss the offer. With no envelope to open, the basic offer always gets seen. Use postcards for new product announcements, discounts and offers, and event invitations.
  2. They are timely. Postcards are inexpensive and don’t require much lead time. Use them for spontaneous and super short-turn projects.
  3. They make great follow-ups and reminders. A well-produced postcard can boost response rates to other campaigns, whether digital or print. If someone doesn’t respond, nudge them with a postcard. It only takes a glance to be reminded of a renewal deadline, upcoming appointment, or expiring offer.
  4. Support digital campaigns. Digital campaigns can get lost in the Internet noise. Sending a “nudge” postcard can add a sense of urgency and importance that prompts a response.
  5. Boost your brand. Because postcards are so cost-effective to print and mail, use them for more than just direct sales. Use them for brand building and customer engagement, too.

Be sure to test each format with different campaign goals. You can think you’ve got your usage right, but the proof is in the testing.

The idea for this article came from the white paper “Envelope Vs. Postcard” from Tension Envelope.