A marketing movement: Direct mail is on a hot streak

a marketing movement direct mail is on a hot streak

At a time when digital is top of mind for advertisers—and rightly so, with its powerful place in all our lives—one of the most established, tactile, and proven media platforms has enjoyed a resurgence: Savvy brands are casting direct mail in a key role in their marketing arsenals.

You might think you know everything there is to know about direct mail, but what you may not realize is that during the pandemic consumers have embraced it like never before. This has created real momentum for the marketing channel, as well as unique opportunities for marketers looking to forge relationships with consumers in an up-close, tangible and highly efficient way right in those consumers’ own homes.

Still, old assumptions about direct mail may keep some brands from reaping all these benefits. Let’s address some of those misconceptions head-on.

Myth #1: Direct mail is too old-fashioned

As we know, the pandemic has influenced consumer attitudes and behaviors overall, and that has also created a real measurable boost for direct mail.

The plain truth is, direct mail continues to engage consumers. In our most recent Consumer Intel Report, we found that more than two-thirds of the respondents (68%) said they use the coupons they get in the mail, while our 2020 Awareness-to-Action Study found that 46% of consumers were encouraged to go online and seek out more information about a brand due to a mail ad. Providing a further boost to the channel, the same study found that more than one-third (34%) said they were spending more time now engaging with direct mail ads than before the pandemic.

Further, the methods, technology and data available to marketers inform today’s direct mail campaigns every bit as much as they do digital ads. For example, localized targeting enables marketers to better understand and engage audiences in specific neighborhoods or even at the household level, and then tailor the messages around demographics and personal interests.

Direct mail, in other words, is far from “mass mailing.” It is as targeted and as relevant as a brand wants it to be.

Myth #2: Direct mail appeals just to older consumers

Nearly everyone today, regardless of age, is on a mobile device and rely on their smartphones, smart watches and tablets for everything from working to shopping and entertainment.

You know what is even more common for consumers to have? A real, physical mailbox. And since most addresses are home to more than one person, direct mail is an especially effective way to reach almost every consumer across demographics.

Direct mail has been shown to work with a broad swath of age groups, including younger consumers. Our Awareness-to-Action survey found that Gen Xers (those born from 1965 to 1980), and millennials (born from 1981 to 1996) are as engaged or even more engaged with direct mail and inserts as boomers (born 1946 to 1964). 66% of millennials and 74% of Gen Xers said they read print ads and inserts, as do 68% of boomers. Meanwhile, 58% of millennials and 67% of Gen Xers said they had read direct mail pieces in the past 30 days (vs. 60% of all respondents).

Direct mail is not only reaching the consumers that brands are hungry to reach, it does so efficiently. For example, marketers who want to reach millennials can build on localized targeting to discover areas most likely to include millennials interested in their product. This enables highly effective messaging designed to motivate these consumers to act, especially since our Awareness-to-Action Study found that direct mail ads motivate 60% of millennials to try a new store, business, or product (significantly higher than all respondents).

You might say that this is not your father’s direct mail, and you’d be right.

Myth #3: Direct mail is too expensive

Brands are putting the ROI of their marketing campaigns under an intense microscope. The fact is, the flashiest campaigns or the hot digital platform of the moment may not deliver the punch advertisers are hoping for.

Enter direct mail, which is not only efficient but can be one of the best investments a marketer can make. 

Our Awareness-to-Action Study found that direct mail ads deliver real results, motivating consumers to take action. For example, direct mail ads inspire 53% of recipients to use a local service, 58% to visit a restaurant or use its delivery service, 48% to make their shopping lists and 41% to go online and make a purchase. In each case, the results are significantly higher among millennials and those with a household income of $100,000 or more.

Meanwhile, the number of direct mail physical options are almost endless, from post cards to high-end creative mailers and anything in between, suiting a range of budgets.

Direct mail has been a bedrock of marketing plans for decades. Even with the rise of digital media, it remains an indispensable way to connect with consumers as part of a holistic, omnichannel campaign. In fact, consumers say that when they see an ad both in print and digital media, they are more likely to remember the message (52%) and notice the ad (52%).

This is a medium that’s experiencing a moment. It’s time for marketers to seize it.