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The Return of Direct Mail!

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Direct Mail: The Sequel

These days, with the apparent domination of digital media and marketing channels, it would be easy to think that a dinosaur like direct mail should be on its last legs. Well, it’s time to think again. If anything, direct mail is more powerful than ever for a variety of reasons. In fact, direct mail is now claiming its place as a critical part of a multichannel marketing mix integrating both online and postal delivery.

Direct Mail Lives!


Facts & figures.

In our blog post, “Is Print Finally Dead” we dispelled this rumor with survey data from the USPS and Direct Marketing Association. To reprise, we learned that an estimated 81% of Americans still skim or read advertising mailed to their homes and 51% read catalogs they receive by mail. We also learned that consumers are much more likely to respond to direct mail (4.4% on average) versus email (.12%), display ads (.04%) and paid search (.22%).

That blog post also described research showing that people have more trust of, better recall of, and stronger emotional bonds with printed media than with electronic media.

An April 23, 2012 article in Target Marketing by Brian Wagner ( read it here » ) contributes more evidence of direct mail’s resiliency. It quotes several studies, including one by Epsilon Targeting called “The Formula for Success: Preference and Trust.” This 2011 research found that (quoted from Epsilon Targeting):

  • 50% of U.S. consumers and 48% of Canadians said they pay more attention to postal mail than email;
  • 60% of U.S. consumers and 64% of Canadians said they enjoy checking the mailbox for postal mail, highlighting an emotional connection.


Countering the email deluge.

Today’s email and marketing automation platforms make it very easy to target specific audiences and blast them with email campaigns in rapid-fire succession. And that of course is the problem. As consumers, we’re getting way too much email. If an email is lucky enough to make it past our automated spam filters (see our blog post, “Make Email, Not Spam”), it may still never make it past our human filters – we’re likely to tune it out among all the clutter.

By contrast, we get far fewer direct mail pieces than emails daily. It’s very easy for a direct mail marketing piece to stand out among just a few bills and the odd personal letter. And, because so many marketers jumped onto the digital marketing bandwagon a few years ago, the quantity of direct mail being sent has decreased, making each piece mailed stand out even more.


Back to balance.

The pendulum is now swinging back now to a more balanced approach, incorporating a proper blend of digital and postal communications. And new technologies are closely integrating the two. 2D barcodes (QR Codes, Microsoft Tags, etc. – yes, we wrote a blog post on that too » ) and new technologies for scanning any type of image are linking direct mail pieces directly to web pages, online videos and even augmented reality experiences using our nearly ubiquitous mobile devices.


All the advantages of direct marketing.

Direct mail may be old school, but it’s still extremely targetable and trackable, just like newer digital media. With creative thematic concepts, multi-part campaigns, innovative printing techniques, personalization, integration with online media and strong calls to action, direct mail can easily be one of your most cost-effective marketing channels.



If you’ve shied away from direct mail in favor of digital marketing, now is a great time to re-integrate this venerable medium into your marketing plans. In a future post we’ll talk more about the basics of effective direct mail campaigns. Meanwhile, the web is a great source of information on trends and techniques to get back into the direct mail game. Here’s to your success!

And here’s to the Marketing Champion in all of us. See you in the next post.




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