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Ken Gronbach on Direct Mail Isn't Dead

Published on April 24, 2012

Hi, I’m Ken Gronbach, I’m a Demographer and that’s a way of saying that I count people and forecast markets based on shifting populations.  I recently spoke at the Oce Direct Mail Conference in Boca Raton, Florida and brought up a couple of points that I think you might wonder – here, I’d like to share with you.  

Generation Y is a huge generation.  These are kids; these are kids that are born 1985 to 2004.  There are more of them than there are Baby Boomers.  And one of the dilemmas that Madison Avenue is facing right now is they can’t reach these kids with standard media.  And the suggestion I made to the Oce folks, and made to the printers and hopefully the printers made you guys, made to your customers is, why don’t you try reaching Generation Y, this huge consuming generation of about 83 million people with direct mail.  

The idea that Generation Y, just because they’re very cyber somehow has an aversion to snail mail is nonsense.  If you can customize the pieces of direct mail and you can get the snail mail or the offers into their hands, a legitimate offer, would include a quick reference code on the piece too, but if you could get a quick – if you could get a piece of direct mail into the hands of Generation Y, I know they will use it.  

And I’ll tell you why real quickly, and this is very, very subjective.  I at the top of my driveway, I get out of my car, I get my mail, I get back in my car, the first thing my two daughters, who are teens say is, “Is there anything for me?”  And if a piece of direct mail happens to be from their favorite clothing store and it’s a coupon, God forbid if it’s a coupon, and it’s a substantial amount off, we have to go to that store so they can save the money, even though I am paying for it.  So what’s my point?  My point is direct mail is not dead, not by a longshot.  

Another couple of things that I pointed out which is really a kind of a given is, there’s a whole new market of Latinos in the United States.  There’s about 60 million of them.  Yes, a lot of them are immigrants, and yes, a lot of them probably speak Spanish as a first language, but so what?  It’s a huge market of 60 million people.  And African-Americans socioeconomically are advancing dramatically, especially under the influence of having an African-American in the White House.  Few research is showing that both the African-Americans and the Latinos, as they advance socio-economically, is a 100 million person block or a market that you cannot ignore.  So think about them for direct mail.  

In addition to that, women are coming into their own.  Women as a market by themselves for direct mail are huge, and of course, the Baby Boomers, now as they’re considering retirement if you can focus on the Baby Boomer, Baby Boomers will be more frugal than ever and they will be looking for coupons and offers.  

So what’s my point in all of this?  As a demographer, there are all kinds of opportunities for direct mail, snail mail for Baby Boomers, for women, for African-Americans, for Latinos and especially for Generation Y, this huge generation, born 1985 to 2004.  So, you heard it here.  

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