Budget Marketing Materials: Large Format Postcards

One of my favorite marketing pieces is the oversize postcard. Why oversize? Well, two reasons: First, you can usually feed oversize postcards through a standard office printer and secondly, smaller postcards (4 x 6 and 5 x 7) don’t have as much visual impact.

Below is a sample of such a postcard I made up using Danielle’s artwork that she has been so kind to allow us to use for the purposes of illustration. The artwork is limited to just the art, and not any text based information that could potentially limit its usage. This is intentional.

The back is primarily blank, with a small logo. While Danielle chose a colored label for her line, it is much more expensive to print full color on both sides, so I have used a black and white version. Here’s a tip on logos and labels– you should always have a black and white version and your logo should always be clear and crisp in black and white (or gray scale). Trust me, it’s important.

While the blank back is very plain, the purpose is to allow room to customize this postcard to suit your needs. If you plan to use it as a mailer, you have USPS limitations on where you can put your text. Every printer supplies templates outlining this. If you don’t plan on mailing it, you’re only limited by the printer you use to print the back.

I’ve used PS Print for years. I’m not saying they are the best or cheapest but they are great and fast. One of the things I love to do is create 6 x 9 size postcards (Modern Postcard calls this “Sumo Size”) and leave the back blank, or just have a small black and white logo printed in the lower corner (color on both sides is very expensive). I can then feed the back through my printer and use the postcard for a variety of uses.

I think DEs can use these as an introduction of a new line, a reminder to order for certain seasons, an invitation to view the line at market and other such things. If you sell to consumers you can use it for promotions, coupons, gift certificates. If you have a small line, it can serve as an inexpensive way to offer a full color view of your line (this is another reason I like the larger size). You can even use these postcards as a “look book” (well, more aptly called a “look card”).

One of the things I collect are catalogs and other marketing materials, including product packaging from a variety of companies in many industries (most notable food and beauty products). I have a drawer full of this stuff. I have things from advertising agencies, print shops and graphic designers that I have collected over the years. In addition, I subscribe to several trade oriented product packaging and graphic design magazines.

Years ago, I came across a company that presented a catalog as a collection of postcards. They weren’t quite your standard postcard size (which means they paid for custom die cuts, which is expensive, so don’t do this), but they had the flexibility of allowing you to have a modular system. This may not work as well for those with a truly fashion oriented line, because your line is always changing. But if you have a pretty consistent product line, it’s very useful and you can also merchandise very well with the large format postcards. In addition, you can offer them to your retail buyers as marketing materials, and custom print the back with their store information.

Many lines offer retailers promotional postcards and they usually showcase one outfit, or set, on a 4 x 6 card. Some are more brand oriented (as opposed to product focused) and show brand artwork (don’t know the point of that), but I feel the postcard has more visual impact when you can show an entire collection and the retailer can use it to cross sell other items.

Returning to the example of Danielle’s postcard, if you wanted to use this as a mini line sheet, you could provide the style information on the back, using the same information I provided in my previous line sheet example, but shrinking it to fit. If you wanted to use this for promotional purposes, let your imagination run wild. Printing 500 of these (which is usually the minimum) usually runs about $150, give or take. And PS Print also allows short run of 125 cards for $69 (but I have not seen the paper they print those on, but for some people it won’t matter). While the short run allows you to get your feet wet, the whole purpose of this format is so that you can use it for a variety of uses and therefore, print more.

As I mentioned before, you could make these “modular” so that they can stand alone, or a grouping could provide an alternative to a look book. An example of this would be to have a full collection pictured as shown, have another card for accessories, and another for outerwear or whatever other product categories are appropriate. Therefore, if you are showing your line at an accessories show, or to accessories buyers, you only need one card, not the entire collection.

While I’m on the topic of creating marketing materials on a budget, I feel the need to mention the printer that I use. Well, not really the printer itself, because my specific model is discontinued, but rather the way I got it, which was through Xerox’s Free Color Printers program. While I take no responsibility for your opinion of the program, it may be a great option for those of you with growing operations that need a quality color printer but can’t necessarily afford to purchase one.

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  1. Leslie Freeman says:

    This seems like a really great, flexible marketing idea! Thanks for sharing it.

    In your post you mention that you subscribe to some trade-oriented marketing and graphic design publicatins. Would you be willing to share their names? I’d be very intersted to look at this kind of resource.

    Thank you,

  2. LeAnna says:

    Hi Kathleen,
    I noticed in one of Miracles posts here there is another post about photographs of the line not working for or against you on line sheets. Actually on a postcard I have from another DE, I can see that. Her clothes are really cute in person, and very wearable. But the postcard ended up making everything look trashy, partly due to the models and the actual photography.
    Anyway- in a weird long round about way it got me wondering ( because I am so so new to this) as far as line cards, look books and postcards, is there a list of these types of things that is standard to take to Market with you?
    Like I said I’m really new, so this may be a very dumb question.

  3. Jess Latham says:

    HOW and Print magazine are two good graphic design periodicals that I subscribe to. If you do a search for HOW at amazon some other good magazines come up too.

  4. MW says:

    But the postcard ended up making everything look trashy, partly due to the models and the actual photography.

    I have seen that too. Especially in categories where model quality can make or break you, like swimwear or lingerie. Most of the times, the heads get cropped off because of issues over image rights and releases. But sometimes, the models end up with the strangest facial expressions.

    To answer your question:

    You should always keep a binder or box with clean originals of your items in case you need to run to a Kinkos to print more. But you should take business cards (tons of them, you’d be surprised how many people forget them or run out), black and white line sheets, order forms, and whatever color materials you have.

    Here’s the thing, don’t give your expensive color stuff out to everyone unless you just printed so many that it makes sense. But reserve that for people who have real interest in the line.

    Many companies also bring gifts for buyers that place orders over a certain amount. Usually this is either old stock (like one pajama company gave out last season’s pajamas) or the most inexpensive stuff in your line (like tees or tanks).

  5. MW says:

    About the publications:

    There is a line of publications that I love, and the name just escapes me right now. But they produce these large volumes of work, illustrations, graphic design, product packaging, corporate identity design (business cards, letterheads, annual reports). I usually sit at the library for hours just looking at all of them. Once I can think of the name, I will post it.


    this is one of my favorites, because they often include print projects that you can actually do yourself and list paper sources and all of that. Some people are extremely creative and handy, so that’s an option.

  6. LeAnna says:

    Many companies also bring gifts for buyers that place orders over a certain amount. Usually this is either old stock (like one pajama company gave out last season’s pajamas) or the most inexpensive stuff in your line (like tees or tanks).

    Does this mean as a personal gift for the buyer?
    We do that alot with people who make large retail purchases from us when we vend at different events. I don’t think I would have thought of doing that at Market. It’s a great idea.
    Thanks MW for taking the time to answer my question:)

  7. kim says:

    this company greenpostcards.com uses recycled paper and soy inks at a very good price. 500 oversize cards (6×8.5) 4/1 color for $195. not bad for “green”. i just tried them out and they look great.

  8. eleen says:

    I know this post is almost 3 years old now but it’s perfectly timely for me, so thank you so much for the info! I’ll be passing out postcards at local retailers to help promote a craft show I’m selling at later this month and was thinking of using the opportunity to slip in a postcard of my own stuff at the same time. =]

    VistaPrint currently has a promo on 8.5″ x 5.47″ oversized postcards. I’m thinking of ordering 250 color front/grayscale back for $50.00 + $19.89 7-day priority shipping (it’s $8.79 if you want to wait up to 21 days). They’re terrible spammers in terms of the amount of promo emails they send you, but if you order with one of their promo prices which are almost always available, you can get a great deal! I’ve had great luck with them with my custom-design, matte double-sided business cards. Only thing is they don’t have the option of using recycled paper…

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