Fonts + Direct Mail Response Rates

Fonts are a funny thing. Invariably the font(s) used by a brand are specified in the brand guide. These guides address all of the internal and customer-facing issues the brand will typically face. Things like how, where + when the brand's logo can and cannot be used, the colours that represent it and the colours that can be used to compliment it. The type of photography that will enhance it, the tone and manner of customer facing copy – as well as the fonts, or typefaces, that are required, or acceptable in a pinch.

The font(s) that you see a brand using have (invariably) been chosen by the brand’s advertising, or branding, agency. The selected font(s) are selected to help differentiate the brand from the competition practically (in terms of how the product or service works) and philosophically (in terms of the brand’s character, its tone and manner).  While larger brands may do some focus group testing to find out if one of their brand recommendation options is more attractive to the intended audience than another, all too often the guide is designed + developed by a creative team with little or no front-line brand experience. Sold to the client by an account team with little or no front-line brand experience. And bought by a client who is flattered into buying what-ever the agency recommends. 

My laptop comes loaded with over 200 fonts – and that’s just for English. Why? 

Because the right font in the right place + time can make a BIG difference.

For example, a recent study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University found that the effectiveness of fundraising appeals aimed at fighting hunger during the present pandemic varied depending on font use.

  • When a heartfelt message is sent in a handwritten font, response rates can be over 12% higher than the same message in a typical font.
  • When the appeal is based on organizational efficacy + a business-font is used, response rates go up 12%.

There are at least three lessons for you here:

  1. While the brand guide you've been asked to work with may claim to be all-inclusive, the creators of the guide were only human. Sometimes the message and the medium conspire to require you to re-visit some of the brand standards that you've been taking for granted.
  2. The aesthetic + philosophical needs of the brand don't always align with the functional, tactical, needs of your brand.
  3. As a committed brand steward, you need to fight for what’s best for your brand in the long run - even if it’s looking for exceptions to long established brand standards - because a brand without a vibrant customer base is not a brand. It's history.