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Content Marketing

Please, No More Trifolds

If I had to pinpoint one of the most useless, outdated pieces of marketing currently in overuse today, I’d have to go with the trifold brochure. That slender, awkwardly arranged piece of letter-size paper is as ubiquitous as it is pointless, but companies still spend money on them, convinced that theirs will be the brochure to beat all brochures. Please trust me when I say that it won’t.

252306_1dThe reasons are simple. They’ve been used to death, they’re functionally counter-intuitive, and no matter the level of creativity of the individual that is condemned to create one, the design is limited to six skinny panels that are always overrun with text. You end up with a cover that’s too visually limited to inspire someone to open it unless they’re trapped in the lobby of a doctor’s office and need something to stare at. The arguments to build a trifold are equally ridiculous:

  • “But they’re cheap.” And cheap-looking. If that’s what you’re going for, keep on keeping on.
  • “They fit in those attractive clear holders.” I fail to see what’s attractive. Maybe it’s the clear part.
  • “They take up such little space.” Great plan for promotional materials: make them easy to miss.
  • “They can easily go in a standard envelope.” A trifold in the mail just screams of spam. Don’t try to church it up by putting it in an envelope – it just makes people even more irritated that they actually put work into opening a piece of junk mail.

Don’t dump time and money into a print marketing piece that lasts 4 seconds in a secretary’s hands before being launched into the trash. There are more creative ways to communicate. For instance, it doesn’t matter what your industry is, you’re marketing to people that like to play. So, make a game of the marketing piece. We’re not all great at origami, but it’s still more engaging than a bunch of text and stock photos on a page. For a few dollars more, you can get even more adventurous – how hard do you think it’ll be to forget a company that sent you this? Will this be just as quick to the trash?


If you’re going to spend money on a marketing piece, make sure it’s a piece that has the creativity and thoughtfulness of the end-user to warrant a return on the investment. You’ll be very glad you did.

Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.


  • Tim McKinnon says:

    I couldn’t agree more. As a printer, we see this all the time. Remember folks, postage (the major cost of a mailing) is the same for boring pieces as it is for those that can actually engage someone and lift response.- Design On and don’t forget to make the envelope interesting (with great copy and design). With new digital envelope presses, even the short run jobs can be dazzling.

  • Marsha Russell says:

    I couldn’t agree more. My work in dimensional marketing certainly made me a believer in how much greater the ROI could be with a more interesting piece, like a pop-up or just a clever die cut as seen above. The best advice I can give is to make sure your lists are very up to date. This way you are focused on the right customers with the right addresses so you spend less and your return is better. Print on!

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