Finding the right-sized postcard for your direct mail campaign can be challenging. Select a dimension too small, and it may be overlooked. Opt for one too big, and it not only costs more but risks having to be folded to fit into a mailbox, obscuring its message.
When determining which proportions to use, it’s important to consider your budget and marketing needs. Taking the time to thoughtfully match the design and messaging with an appropriately sized product is critical to the success of your direct mail campaign.
The following guidelines, with insights from Design Distributors Inc. President Adam Avrick, will help ensure you choose the most effective and cost-efficient postcard sizes to maximize the message, design, exposure, and deliverability of your direct mailing campaign.
Overall, “The Message” is paramount, and should dictate sizes, says Avrick, explaining: “If the message requires more space, or your designer feels that more graphics would enhance your message, then go with a larger format.”
Let’s begin with the basics. Most postcards fall under four key sizes:
4.25 inches high x 6 inches long (Small)
6’’ x 9’’ (Standard)
6” x 11” (Jumbo)
9” x 12” (Extra Large)
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Small 4.25’’ x 6’’
With the least amount of real estate, this postcard is compact, making it optimal for simple, straight-to-the-point designs. It is also the only size within this guide recognized as a traditional “postcard” by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
According to the USPS, a postcard measures between 3.5’’ x 5’’ and 4.25’’ x 6’’—anything larger is considered a “letter.” Therefore, if your size falls into this space, you can send at First-Class Mail rates, which carry a less cost of postage than Marketing Mail. From a postage-cost perspective, the latter would be best for pieces exceeding this size.
For example: The mixed Automated Area Distribution Center (AADC) First-Class rate would be $.274 per piece, and the matching letter-size (mixed AADC) Marketing Mail rate would be $.287 per piece. By using First-Class, your piece moves quicker through the system, will be forwarded to a new address if the recipient has moved and left a new address, and if the recipient has moved without a forwarding address, you will receive that piece back for you to update your mailing list.
For reference, the dimensions of this postcard are comparable to those of the 4.125’’ x 9.5’’ envelopes frequently delivered to your mailbox. So although it may not stand out as much as the larger sizes, Small may be your most economical option.
Standard 6’’ x 9’’
Out of the four main sizes listed above, Standard offers the most versatility, and popular campaigns often use this size for its creative options. Mail products can be vertical, horizontal, or both. (For example: text displayed horizontally on the front and vertically on the back.) The Standard postcard size is also larger than envelopes, which means your postcard has a greater chance of standing out and being seen than the Small.
Jumbo 6’’ x 11’’
Generally the largest size on the market, Jumbo offers the same versatility as the Standard, with larger proportions. Given its size, you'll likely want a vertical design similar to that of a poster. Be aware of the associated pricing increases incurred by going bigger, however, advises Avrick.
“From a postage standpoint, staying in the letter-size rate is important,” he explains. “In Marketing Mail, once you exceed 6.125 x 11.5, the rate category shifts to a ‘flat.’ That would increase the Marketing Mail rate (mixed AADC) from $.287 to $.598. So, if you were to produce a 9 x 12 oversized postcard, your postage rate would be significantly higher.”
Extra Large 9” x 12”
Extra Large postcards fall under the flat-rate pricing outlined above, yet this size has its own share of benefits, too. With the largest dimensions, there’s no question of the inherently increased visibility this size commands. If your budget allows, this is your surefire way to maximize your direct mail campaign results.
Design Distributors Inc. President Adam Avrick makes the following recommendations:
“If you can effectively get your message across to the recipient in a 4.25 x 6 postcard, then choose this option, as it is the most cost-effective card to manufacture and mail,” says Avrick.
“If timing is important, then use the 4.25 x 6, too, as First-Class is much faster than Marketing Mail, from an in-home delivery perspective,” he explains. “As a rule of thumb, local automated First-Class Mail is in-home in one to three working days, and out of town within five working days.”
“If your message is better served by using more space, then choose either the 6 x 9 or 6.125 x 11.5 options,” continues Avrick. “The cost to manufacture the 6 x 9 is less than the 6 x 11, however, the postage for both will be the same.”
“If you really want your piece to stand out in the mailbox, and your budget allows, you may want to look at the 9 x 12 format,” he adds. “It is the most expensive to manufacture, and mail, but it will definitely stand out.”
Avrick offers the following tip for companies new to direct mail campaigns:
“Split your files, and always test,” he says. “If you have a database of 15,000 names, then choose three formats, and run 5,000 of each. Then, track your responses, and you’ll know which works best.”