Ask Silver Bullet: April 2017
Does the growth of digital marketing mean Direct Mail is dead?
While Mark Twain was in London in 1897, a rumour began in America that he was gravely ill with one American newspaper actually printing his orbituary. On being informed of this, he quipped, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” and I think this is also true of Direct Mail - we may live in an increasingly digital age but this does not mean that other forms of marketing are finished, but rather that marketers now have even more choice over their means of delivery and the very best results come when different channels are used in multi-media campaigns.
Direct Mail is one of the earliest forms of marketing - in the British Museum there’s possibly the earliest known example from around 1000BC in the form of a papyrus-based flier from an Egyptian landowner offering payment for the return of a runaway slave. Printing technology developed over the years allowing the mass production of mailers, catalogues and leaflets and a new form of marketing evolved, reaching home and business owners in their own premises.
Today’s direct mail has taken this even further by being able to target carefully chosen audiences with specific offers and the statistics show that it continues to work - 82% of Direct Mail is opened with 48% of the UK population responding to a Direct Mail they received in the last 12 months and 18% of Direct Mail kept for use at a later date. Over 17million people still shop by mail order, with over 70% of people appreciating receiving mail that rewards them for loyalty.
But, and it’s a hugely important point, 96% of direct mail now offers an online response mechanism, an indication of how direct mail is moving with the times and becoming part of multi media campaigns that can produce fantastic results, given a good offer, addressed creatively to a receptive audience.
These points apply equally to digital marketing and while there is no doubt that social media and email marketing campaigns will continue to grow, there is evidence that a huge proportion of digital marketing is blocked by filters, never read or simply deleted by recipients.
Direct mail, on the other hand, with a well presented address in a quality envelope will inevitably be opened with an engaging offer inspiring the desired call to action, even if this via the Internet, again introducing multi media campaigns, which can also include outdoor media, traditional printed advertising and media coverage.
Direct mail is also very flexible in the content can range from coupons and other incentives designed to rapidly generate revenue to collateral such as information, newsletters, questionnaires and suggestion forms which engage customers in the longer term.
The form of the mail can also vary enormously dependent on the creativity employed - ranging from the huge home shopping catalogues issued by national chains to the pop-ups and other masterpieces of paper engineering increasingly used to demonstrate quality and innovation in brands.
Demography is also important here - remember, there’s a huge number of young people, especially Millennials, for whom receiving posted mail is a novelty and welcomed whilst many catalogue shoppers, some at the other end of the age scale, prefer to flick through physical pages rather than swipe left or right - it’s a personal choice where some people prefer their messages communicated in a tactile form.
Of course, the argument used for digital marketing is it avoids the cost of printing by being able to reach huge numbers of existing and potential customers at a fraction of the cost of print and postage and this is a very valid point, but for either channel to be successful, they require design and a data base. Marketing decisions then have to be taken as to whether the investment in print and delivery justifies the additional cost but, to my mind, I’d want anything sent out or emailed to reflect the quality of the company - poorly designed and cheaply printed mailers are not the image wanted.
So never underestimate the power of quality design and quality print, be completely sure of your database, integrate your direct mail with other marketing channels and you’ll find Direct Mail to be far from dead.
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