In an age when digital marketing appears to have hit a level of maturity where practitioners can talk with confidence about journey-based insights and intelligent technologies, it appears to be a strange and anachronistic revelation that direct mail is not only back on the agenda for a lot of cross-channel decision makers, but enjoying a renaissance.
How has a medium, often well regarded in regards to engagement, but maligned in regards to prohibitive production costs, ended up integral to the mix all over again?
You might start by looking at the charity sector where recent controversies over telemarketing and the even more entrenched attitude from the general public as regards street fundraising, or ‘chugging’, it’s not surprising that a dependable method of communication is required in light of the fact that the digital approach may not be hitting all the right buttons. The age profile of online users may be widening all the time but many not-for-profits rely on older audiences who are less likely to respond to an email than a ‘letter’, especially in the case of legacy marketing where long-form propositions will require more than an on-screen reading panel to get the message across.
Away from charity and into crowded marketplace of homewares e-commerce, MADE.COM have made great strides with their recent direct mail activity, especially in the case of lapsed customers where tangible image-laden mail packs with enticing, targeted vouchers have become a major encouragement to customers deliberating their next big purchase with the brand.
In the Finance sector, direct mail has been seen to attract target audiences without the risks associated with the more sub-prime individuals within the marketplace who may have been drawn to lenders’ sites via SEO and PPC.
The fact is that, for a highly significant section of the UK buying population, a well-designed personalised piece of direct mail can often forge paths to engagement in a way that other approaches may never be able to match. You have to engage with a mail pack in your home, where product research and purchase decisions are often made. You have to at least pick it up – which means your attention may be held for a couple of seconds longer than it takes for you to dismiss an email after only seeing the sender and subject line.
That said, there have been key case studies from the automotive sector at least that suggest a truly effective communications programme will still feature DM deployed alongside other channels – and that in fact it’s the evolution of a story that counts, from introduction through to main tactical message through to reminder, rather than single bursts of isolated activity.
In conclusion, the title of this piece ought not to be Why Direct Mail Is Still Cool and rather Why Direct Mail Never Really Went Away… it just stepped off to the side for a while Digital tried, and ultimately failed, to deliver the lead performance the more technocratic sections of the industry had predicted.
By James Sargeant – Planning Manager at Amaze One