We recently asked a range of industry experts for their thoughts on the future of direct mail campaigns. Their overwhelming and perhaps not surprising conclusion was that, with the arrival of mass email marketing, direct mail has been in decline. In fact it has even been referred to as dead. However, talk of its demise might be premature as it would appear that email marketing has now become a victim of it’s own success.

Studies have shown that 70% of customers now feel they receive too many emails.

direct mail campaigns

Whilst people used to receive piles of direct mail through the letterbox, the tables have turned.

“With less clutter in the mail box, your direct mail piece stands out more, which is why DM response rates are now on the rise.” Bob Bly, direct response marketing expert.

Thus it would seem that direct mail campaigns now offers a renewed opportunity, with tangible attributes that email cannot match such as shape, texture and even scent. These characteristics are what makes direct mail campaigns more memorable than digital media and gives it an advantage now that the doormat is less cluttered than the inbox. If it’s done well, a beautiful brochure, letter or gift card delivered through the post is a more personal and stimulating experience than even the most sophisticated digital campaign can hope to be.

In fact studies have shown that people often understand and remember text on paper better than on a screen, with print media also prompting greater brand recognition. 

Online luxury fashion retailer, Net-a-Porter, has recognised this and is pioneering the use of technology to elevate print by adding a new service to its magazine. Using its app readers can scan and buy particular items, whilst Net-a-Porter can track the data for future campaigns. With careful attention paid to the stock and finishes, combined with clever use of technology, the brand has created an experience that makes the best of physical and digital media. People like to browse catalogues, but they also like the speed and convenience of online shopping. Net-a-Porter has given them the best of both worlds.

This might just be direct mail’s new USP: thoughtful use of personalisation and the application of data to create a sense of connection and relevance to the consumer. Adam Pike, co-founder of SuperCarers.com, says that we need to get smarter with our use of data within marketing. It’s now more than just a name at the top of a letter, we need to be more creative and enhance the experience.

It would seem, then, that the harbingers of doom weren’t entirely right, but they weren’t wrong either. Go back to old, broad-brush campaigns that relied on volume and your efforts will probably go the way of the junk mail of the past. But if you think carefully about your consumer and create something enticing, tactile and with an innovative twist, then you’ll capture their attention in the physical world whilst engaging them in the digital.

‘The more digital our lives become the more we look for balance’ – Tim Lindsay – CEO, D&AD

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