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Industry Insight

Mythbusting: Is Direct Mail Dead?

I love the show MythBusters and secretly fantasize about being a Mythbuster myself.

By Howie Fenton
Published: August 23, 2010

I love the show MythBusters and secretly fantasize about being a Mythbuster myself. This subject will allow me to live out my inner Mythbuster. With the proposed changes in postal rates there are people saying: direct mail is dead, people hate junk mail why use it, and combining direct mail with online marketing is a waste of good online marketing efforts. Let’s hear from our newest Mythbuster. Is Direct Mail Dead? “Nope that’s BUSTED.” A properly executed direct mail campaign still provides a solid ROI and with variable data and or cross media marketing we are seeing double digit return rates, which is even more impressive. According to an annual study from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), spending on direct mail marketing is expected to increase by more than $1 billion in 2010. Therefore, their predictions of direct mail's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Don't People Hate Junk Mail? “Sorry Folks but that’s BUSTED.” According to the 2010 DMA Statistical Fact Book, 79% of households either read or skim junk mail advertising sent to their home. That study is right in line with an International Communications Research survey commissioned by Pitney Bowes. The survey found, despite the immense popularity and widespread use of social marketing and digital media, consumers still prefer mail over e-mail, as it relates to receiving new product announcements, as well as confidential business communications such as bank statements and other financial information. According to the study: 73 percent of consumers prefer mail for receiving new product announcements or offers from companies they do business with, as compared to 18 percent for e-mail. For important and confidential communications such as bills, bank statements and other financial information, a majority of respondents (86 percent) preferred mail as their communication method of choice, as compared with 10 percent for e-mail. The survey also found that 31 percent of consumers are less likely to discard unopened mail – including new product announcements, coupons, brochures, catalogs, etc. – than they are to delete unsolicited e-mails (spam) regarding new product announcements (53.2 percent). When consumers were asked what advantages they saw in direct mail versus unsolicited e-mail and telemarketing calls, 45.3 percent of respondents found mail to be less intrusive, more convenient, less high-pressured and more persuasive. Why Combine Cross Media with Direct Mail? “That’s really BUSTED!” A well executed direct mail campaign combined with new digital marketing methods could be an unbeatable combination. For certain applications, QR codes are gradually becoming commonplace in direct mail marketing campaigns. The tags can be printed on any number of materials, from brochures to envelopes, and allow business owners to more effectively motivate consumers to buy. For example, Universal Pictures recently began using QR codes to promote its films. For the movie Repo Man, the studio incorporated bar codes on all print materials. When consumers scanned the QR codes, they were taken to the movie’s website, where they could download trailers and learn more about the film. According to DMNews, QR codes are making many businesses reconsider the effectiveness of direct mail marketing. The combination of print with mobile smartphone technology is proving very effective in motivating action such as movie ticket purchases. Another great example of cross media marketing is the Girl Scouts Support the Sash campaign. A PODI award winner, it combined variable data printing, direct mail, email marketing, Purls and social media sites (Facebook and Twitter). The results included: a 5% unique response rate (8% with Purls), 31% of respondents donated, average donations increased from $50 to $250, the Facebook page grew by 141 and the best news was that the service provider was awarded a one year contract. What do you think … Are the Myths Busted? Howard Fenton is a Senior Consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers, in-plants, and manufacturers on workflow management, operations, digital services, and customer research.

Howie Fenton is InfoTrends' Associate Director of Operational Consulting. For over 25 years, he has focused on benchmarking operational and financial performance in in-plants and commercial printers. He can be reached via e-mail at Howie.Fenton@infotrends.com.



By Buck Crowley on Aug 24, 2010

Mail can be the most cost effective method of regional advertising. We recently setup a production line for a 3,000,000 saturated mailing, where every house hold got the message. This project can be produced for $750K including postage. No other form of advertising now or in the foreseeable future can offer that type of marketing exposure. Buck at BuckAutomation.com


By Roy Winters on Aug 30, 2010

I get direct mail at work and home regularly mostly from "big" companies. I will assume that these companies have the resources to confirm the positive return from such campaigns. I generally work with smaller companies where the cost of postage becomes the budget breaker as the postage is generally the most expensive componenet of the total cost. Unfortunately it looks like The Postal Service is getting ready to increase the cost again. I believe that until the Postal Service starts to function more like a for profit business and contains it's costs it will continue to get more difficult to get an ROI out of a direct mail campaign.


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