Mailing Sleeves: A Payoff Worth the Pull
| Posted on 2/20/23

Mailing Sleeves: A Payoff Worth the Pull

When it comes to engaging with your customers, we think it’s best to wear your marketing on your sleeve. In the case of the Sleeve Mailer, it’s more like print your strategy on and in your sleeve – literally. Add an insert card and these mailing sleeves create anticipation for any reveal. See why Foldfactory founder Trish Witkowski says it’s a marketing ace up your, well, you know.

A yellow insert sliding in and out of a blue mailing sleeve.

Off the Cuff

Part of Smartpress’ exclusive Designer Folds collection, the Sleeve Mailer gives your print marketing an upgrade that’s exciting, unexpected and memorable. When it comes to brand communication, that’s exactly what customers and clients want.


A standout among standouts, our mailing sleeves feature a specialty format that forces recipients to interact with it. With a thumb-pull design that reveals a sliding insert, there’s no way around it. Which means there’s no way around your messaging.

What kind of messaging, you ask? For a direct mail insert like this, you’ve got options upon options. Announce new products, offer service updates, create custom invites with event details or simply share information about your brand that strengthens your customer connection.


Hint: The insert card for your Sleeve Mailer is not included, but you can find it here: Insert Cards. We recommend the 8-7/8″W x 5-7/8″H size.

Two hands holding a blue sleeve mailer with a yellow insert card.

A hand pulling a yellow insert card out of a blue mailing sleeve.

Let It Slide

Our customizing options and extensive online printing services make it easy for you to make a strong visual impact. We know your messaging is unique to you and your business, which is why we’ve got coated and uncoated paper stocks for the right feel and matte and gloss UV coatings for the right look. But that’s just the beginning.


For creative marketing pieces like mailing sleeves, it’s all about personalization. How to do it? Variable data printing (VDP), of course. With VDP, you can add information like a customer’s name or member ID, an offer exclusive to them or even a QR code. It’s a personal touch that’s the difference between your direct mail going in the junk pile and your business gaining a repeat spender.

As for the actual mailing part, you’ve got options there, too – and a lot of help from us. In fact, we can take care of the whole process for you, from list acquisition and list processing to addressing, permits and beyond.


Hint: When designing your Sleeve Mailer (more on that below), contrast is crucial: To create the most visual impact, make sure your insert stands out from your sleeve. Try a minimal design on the sleeve and an elaborate design on the insert. Or play with color and go with a black insert and a white sleeve.



“The nature of the pull-tab design is intriguing enough on its own.”




Q&A with Trish

Before you roll up your sleeves and design your own mailers for online printing, check out Witkowski’s tips for creating, ideas for personalizing and specs for mailing below.

What do you love about the Sleeve Mailer?
“There’s a lot of creative flexibility in a two-piece format like the Sleeve Mailer. You’ve got the outer sleeve that’s really protective and has an open end for the insert, which at minimum, is a single-sheet large postcard format.


“However, I would challenge you to see the insert card as the baseline and to consider lots of other formats, such as a saddle stitch booklet, a tri-fold brochure, coupon or even another Designer Fold like a Rectangular Folded Cross.”

What are some ideas for how to use mailing sleeves? What type of content works most effectively?

“Sleeve Mailers are outstanding for announcements, sales brochures, mail promotions and events. One of my favorite design tricks for this format is to have a die cut or laser cut added to the sleeve so there’s a sneak peek that makes the recipient want to pull out the insert and see the whole message or picture.


“But you don’t have to add lots of extras to make this format work. The nature of the pull-tab design is intriguing enough on its own. Just make sure the payoff is worth the pull. Don’t disappoint your audience with a boring reveal!”

Two pink sleeve mailers with Grand Opening Specials on the front and a white insert card.
Two hands holding a white insert card with "Buy 1, Get 1 Free" in pink on top of a pink mailer envelope.



“Ask a question on the sleeve and answer it on the insert.”



What advice do you have for designing print for the Sleeve Mailer?

“You must spend time planning for the dimensions of the insert. If the insert is a single card/large postcard, it should be about 1/4″ shorter than the opening it’s sliding into. This ensures enough room for an easy insertion process.


“The insert should be about 1/8″ shorter than the total length of the piece as well because it has to be long enough to show in the thumb-pull area but short enough to not protrude or hinder the pull.


“One other important detail is if you add pages/panels to the insert, you’ll need to make the insert incrementally smaller on both dimensions to accommodate for the added bulk. You can always ask Smartpress customer service for help with this production decision.”

What are some ways you’ve seen variable data printing on creative mailers like this? What types of content?

“One of the coolest ways to integrate variable data into a Sleeve Mailer is to ask a question on the sleeve and answer it on the insert. The question could be general and without personalization, but why not address the person directly with relevant content?


“One example is for higher education. The sleeve could read, ‘Jennifer, where will your career take you?’ Knowing what you may know about her career interests (the medical field, for example), the insert could be all about a program at the university and potential careers she’d be prepared for.


“The insert could also include a CTA that invites her personally for a tour. This question-and-answer type of scenario can apply to just about any market.”

Two hands holding a blue mailing sleeve with more sleeves in pink, white and yellow around it.



What tips do you have to ensure a smooth mailing process?

“The Sleeve Mailer is a natural self-mailing format because the sleeve is like a protective envelope. With two tabs on the open edge, it will sail through USPS sorting machines – just remember the open edge of the sleeve is always to the left of the mailing address.


“Sleeve Mailers can also be sent in an envelope. If it’s a fancy event invitation, you may not want tabs stuck on the outside of the sleeve or you may want the extra layer of protection or formality for the reveal. There’s no right or wrong. It really comes down to your design intent and your budget.”


Hint: Have questions about designing marketing mailers like this one? We’re the online printing shop with your answers: Designer Folds FAQ.

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