Direct mail is dead?

 |  By: Kate Jones In: Trends

In some respects, it doesn’t feel that odd to be posing the question of whether or not direct mail is dead. Aren’t marketers always debating this, aren’t we taught that everything is digital and there’s no room for anything that’s not online? After all, there’s no such thing as a digital marketing manager anymore or a digital agency, we all do digital, right?

Well as Halloween approaches, if direct mail is dead it’s time to dig up the grave. We’ve researched the topic and spoken to our extensive agency network and are pleased to announce that direct mail is alive and kicking. In fact, it’s a channel with a great deal of potential for your next campaign

Direct Marketing Association (DMA) reported in Forbes that on average direct mail achieves a 4.4% response rate, compared to 0.12% for email.

The Forbes article referenced above suggests that this is largely due to over-cluttered inboxes and unsolicited emails.

The sheer volume of messages we all receive on a daily basis has become unmanageable. How do we cut the wheat from the chaff? Truth is we don’t, we’ve started to ignore the lot.

A recent poll on TechRepublic suggests that people receive around 21 spam emails per day.

Trust is another factor at play. Unfortunately, modern-day email is littered with hacks, scams and general nastiness. When in doubt, delete.

But it’s not only email that direct mail is competing against. We’re getting information and offers directly to our phone, clickable banner ads, retargeting, geo-fencing and more are all biding for our attention. So why then is direct mail still largely very successful?

70-80% of consumers say they open almost all of their mail – including junk mail. (source: Direct Marketing Association)

One argument is that it’s rarer. OK, let’s forget about the bargain booze and pizza flyers for now and consider carefully-considered and relevant pieces of clever direct mail. I recently received a lovely pair of bamboo cotton socks in the post, it made me smile and in the short-term, I’ll think of the company who sent them every time I wear and wash the socks (they’re really quite nice).  Would I have clicked a banner ad about socks or opened an email about socks? I hope not.

What's more, this company had clearly done their research. I’m not a sock fanatic but I do like sportswear. The company doesn't actually exclusively sell socks but bamboo cotton sportswear. Proof that if you apply the same targeting principles to direct mail that you would to a digital advertising campaign, then you can still expect to reach a targeted audience, arguably in a more engaging way.

There is also strong evidence to suggest that we have a more emotional and lasting response to mail. The research company, Kantar Millward Brown recently teamed up with the Centre for Experimental Consumer Psychology at Bangor University to carry out a series of neurological tests to determine our emotional response to on-screen and in-hand adverts. Here’s the science bit:

  • Tangible materials leave a deeper footprint in the brain.
  • Physical materials produced more brain responses connected with internal feelings, suggesting greater “internalization” of the ads.
  • Physical material involves more emotional processing, which is important for memory and brand associations

And let’s not forget, it doesn’t need to be one or the other, omnichannel campaigns, offer something for everybody and can be used to create a rather nice mix-media journey.

This article from econsultancy is a little old now (what did we tell you, more people need to use direct mail) but it’s a particularly good read as it talks you through a mix-media campaign that was run as an experiment to see how people respond to personal mail as the first touch point. The response is very interesting. (In reference to the cold-mailing section at the end of this article, please note that when GDPR comes into force in May 2018 you will need permission to send individuals direct mail)

So in summary, long live direct mail. Let's celebrate this far-from-over marketing channel, if you have a particularly interesting campaign you’ve run or received please share on Twitter @Synerg1st

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