Crain's Cleveland Business: Chic Invitations Dressed to Impress

Chic invitations dressed to impress

Party planners choose high-end options to increase event attendance


Looking to enhance the prestige of its annual fundraiser, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society joined forces with Cleveland graphic designer firm Invite Design and zeroed in on the event’s first impression — the invitation.

Designers Genevieve Kenney and Nicole Bismark Wilson created an invitation printed on stunning red stock, symbolic of the blood cancers the society works to defeat. A red pocket with an elegant black tie completed the invitation to the Man, Woman and Business of the Year event.

The result? A 40% higher response rate compared to the previous year’s event, said Amy Pausche, campaign manager for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in Cleveland.

“We actually had people calling us. … People were very excited to receive these envelopes and they received a lot more attention than our previous mailing had or our nomination letters,” she said. “The invitation looked so elegant and it really stepped up the level of the campaign.”

The invitation is a powerful tool for any event, said Sharon Baden of Bäden Design in Cleveland.

“With most events it sets the stage for the theme, the mood and people know right away if it is going to be elegant. They can tell right away by the invitation,” said Ms. Baden, a graphic designer of 15 years. Her clients have included Baker & Hostetler LLP, the Cleveland Clinic and Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.

A unique custom-designed invitation is a great way to create buzz about an event.

“With the invitation being the first thing that anybody sees, we really try to stress to invite anticipation for your event because you want people to come,” said Ms. Kenney, co-owner of Invite Design. “We’ve found that colorful and striking envelopes make a huge impression. When people get their mail and there is a red envelope, it stands out immediately and people want to open that one. Different textures and engraving always make a big impression because it is so professional and beautiful.”

Ms. Baden, who holds two patents on an invitation — one for its design and the other for the glueless envelope that she designed to hold it — aims to create her custom invitations so people who receive them feel like they are getting a special gift in the mail.

“Sometimes it’s the fact that you have to untie the invitation or that you have to slide this tube or this beautiful textured envelope that you only will experience intimately by receiving it in the mail or hand delivered,” she said. “I call it the wash-the-hands effect where when they know it’s special they say, ‘Oh, I’ve got to have my hands clean to open it’ because they know it’s going to be nice. If you do that in today’s busy lifestyles, make people stop and want to open their mail carefully, that’s a powerful thing.”

An up-front investment
Custom-designed, professionally printed and hand-assembled invitations come with an expense and a more structured timeframe than ordering stock invitation out of a book.
For a corporate event, designers need anywhere from two to three months, or even longer ideally to create an invitation.
“You try to interview your clients and find out what is the most appropriate, what kind of paper, whether you send a three dimensional piece in the mail or a flat folded piece,” she said. “If the time allows for it, you can do something quite unique and quite different.”
How much a company spends on an invitation sends a message to the invited guests, co-workers, colleagues or investors. “If you also send something very special, they feel very special,” said Ms. Wilson, who along with Ms. Kenney founded Invite Design in 2004 after they spent close to five years as card designers at American Greetings Corp. “It’s worth it to hire a designer. It’s going to make a huge difference as will adding detail — it might be a bow, or pocket that your invitation goes in, or envelope.”
The cost of an invitation depends largely on the quantity, the more you order the lower the per-piece price, Ms. Wilson said. For instance, 100 professionally printed invitations might cost $10 apiece but for 1,000 invitations that price could drop to $5 apiece.
“If it’s important for you to get your people at your event, you need to decide what your marketing costs are too,” Ms. Baden said. “People don’t want to spend a lot on invitations and they don’t get a good turnout. Maybe they didn’t promote it. Spend $200 on invitations and get $100; that’s not worth it. Spend $5,000 and get $25,000 back from your event, it was money well spent.”
Ms. Pausche of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society agreed.
“I think a (custom-designed invitation) establishes credibility instantly,” she said. “Our response rate was so much better, I felt that it was worth the investment of money into having not only a beautiful design but really make it cohesive with the rest of the campaign and the event in general.”

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