Is direct mail dying as a viable marketing tool?

Keeping up with a marketing medium balance.

It’s common thinking with businesses that print is dying in marketing and advertising. It may have slowed down, but I continue to fill up my recycle bin every Sunday with newspaper ads and supplementals. Sure, print has decreased in popularity, but there will always remain a place for advertising in print publications. So why is there such a resurgence? The primary reason is that print is no longer the single source of communication medium so it becomes new and fresh again. Ironically, printed items stand out from the crowd when the world is mostly online. There are still enough people who enjoy print so much that several e-businesses have launched print magazines over the past few years.

Similarly, direct mail has made a mini resurgence of its own. Given the upswing of print’s popularity, how can businesses use this “new-again” tool to benefit them? While the level of personalization may have fallen off as the number of recipients rise, getting something individually addressed with a stamp versus being one among thousands receiving an eblast, or email has a certain caché in this increasingly impersonal world. By combining a personal touch with an attention-getting direct mail piece adds to client retention. As technology dictates more standardization such as template designs, businesses need to stand out from the clutter to draw both attention and distinction. Simple techniques like an irregular mailer size, or oversized type using bright colors are still very effective. Offers to save on a membership fee can be written in oversize text on the front and back and make it more attractive with a strong call to action. Variable data printing, or match mailing personalizes your audience by using the first name from a database list. This technique has proven successful in many marketing campaigns.

Email marketing has grown to the point of being over saturated, and text messaging maintains the top position as far as a marketing medium. You certainly can’t beat the price on either of these. However, are the 2 marketing tools on their own giving businesses the return they would expect? Emails and texts are maybe forgotten, or lost within seconds of opening them. Like with Twitter posts, which have an average 3-minute shelf life, emails quickly dissolve into the webosphere. Studies have shown that audiences hold on to and pay more attention to direct mail over emails. Four-fifths (79 per cent) of consumers will act on direct mail immediately compared to only 45 per cent who say they deal with email straightaway, according to CMO Council Journal.  Emails can supplement a direct mail campaign as a follow-up reminder, but on their own they’re quickly forgotten. An example would be greeting cards. While egreeting cards have gained a strong following, print cards still fly off the shelves. It’s just more personal, comforting and credible to get that piece of paper instead of an email.

Other facts according to the Direct Marketing Association:

• Direct mail advertising gives a business a 13 to 1 return on investment
• 39% of customers try a business for the first time because of direct mail advertising
• 70% of customers renew a business relationship because of a direct mail promotion
• 76% of customers have been directly influenced to purchase by direct mail
• 98% of Americans check their mailbox daily
• 62% of Americans enjoy checking their mailbox
• 56% of Americans say receiving mail is a real pleasure
• 77% of Americans sort through their mail immediately after retrieving it from the
• 70% of Americans say mail is more personal than the Internet

Print, and especially direct mail cannot be ignored. It is the foundation of brand equity and the driving force of successful marketing. With the continual push for online advertising, any direct mail campaign should be part of a larger comprehensive marketing package where email supports direct mail and visa-versa. Trends will recommend one type of media over another, but good marketing communication requires a strategic media mix with multiple touch points.

Stephen Wilson
Marketing Communications Consultant

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s