Creative Testing in Direct Mail

After taking a break from our regularly scheduled content to adjust to the changing working environment, we are back in 2021 and ready to resume our series of articles on ‘The 10 Steps to Creating a Direct Mail Marketing Plan’.

Our last article discussed the benefits of testing which can be divided into three specific parts; list testing, offer testing, and creative testing which we address in this article.

Once you’ve run a list test and an offer test, you’re ready for creative testing. In order to develop a creative test, you should have a control piece, established from previously successful campaigns, or a piece with a compelling call to action and an enticing, tested offer [1].

When you have identified your control piece, plan to mail that to a large sampling of your audience and measure that response to establish your baseline from which you will measure your future creative tests [2].

With the goals for your campaign in place, and your established control piece, you can look at different ways in which you will test the creative for your mailing. Creative testing strategies can vary from changes in presentation, color, graphics or layout.

A rule of thumb is that you need to make sure you are using an “apples to apples” comparison in your testing, especially if you want to be able to compare the results from the test. For instance, testing a postcard against a letter format, both of which have the same offers, call to action, and similar copy is an example of a valid and worthwhile creative test.

Examples of a creative test that will allow you to collect valuable information are: 

  • Testing black and white against a color mailing piece
  • Comparing CTA (Call to Action) statements
  • Test two photos, images, or illustrations on different mailings
  • Try different layouts on a postcard to see what encourages intended results
  • Headlines are a great way to grab attention – test different headlines on the same mail piece to see which ones draw the most response from your target audience
  • Format tests are important – e.g., a postcard vs. letter package, with identical offers
  • Different copy versions based on target audience preferences

Here are a few visual examples to go with the suggestions above:

Once you have a control and a test piece, select your data sets, sorting the data into an A/B split, (every other record in your data), sending group A the control piece and group B the test piece. Measure the response of each group to see what pulls best [3].

Creative concepts will fatigue over time, if your direct mail campaigns are consistently failing to yield the predicted response, a complete revamp of the creative used is a great way to get out of that response rut [4].

Testing creative will yield valuable and insightful results for your upcoming direct mail campaigns. Creative testing will help you gain an even deeper understanding of your target audience for the future.

What are you waiting for? Start a creative test today!



  1. Nash, Edward. Direct Marketing. New York: McGraw Hill, 2000. Print.


How can Genesis Help?

Genesis Direct can help you build an effective test series for your direct mail marketing programs.  By using variable printing, expert data base management, and creative resources, we will help you craft your message, choose the right offer, and format to deliver amazing results.

Our team has been partnering with clients for over 25 years to create effective direct mail marketing campaigns and we continue to be one of the leaders in direct mail marketing. To learn how Genesis Direct can help your business grow, call or email Mike McNally for a free consultation.

Mike McNally, Senior Account Executive

[email protected]

(813) 855-4274 x1265 | mobile: (813) 610-5931