Direct Mail's Resurgence and New Role in Integrated MarketingApril 23, 2012 By Brian Wagner
Have you noticed anything different about the contents of your postal mailbox lately?
Just by looking in your own mailbox, you might have noticed an increase in the numbers and variety of offers. Direct mail is very much alive today and continues to be the workhorse for many brand marketing efforts. It has been, and continues to be, at the very heart and soul of direct response marketing. The catalog is the oldest form of direct response advertising, dating back to 1872, with the launch of Aaron Montgomery Ward's first mail order catalogue.
No matter the communication channel, the function and objective of direct response remains the same after all these years—a means of commerce allowing businesses and nonprofits to showcase their products, services and needs directly to customers around the globe.
What has changed is the communication and response channels marketers use to make their offers and maintain contact with prospects and loyal customers. Direct response channels continue to evolve, whether they are outbound channels carrying a brand message or response devices for placing one's order. Direct response has grown to include envelopes and selfmailers, postage-paid mail, toll-free numbers, faxing, direct response radio and TV infomercials, as well as a host of new emerging digital technologies, including email, banner ads, search, digital targeting, webcasts and videos, PURLs, and QR and other 2D codes, with many more yet to come.
Survivors of Marketing's 'Perfect Storm'
Unlike in other economic downturns, the most recent had become a marketer's "perfect storm." Starting in 2007, as the US entered its own economic turmoil, marketers were faced with paper cost increases, fuel surcharges and multiple postage rate hikes. Many marketers had become more cost conscious, and, as a result, many made drastic cuts and budget reallocations to new lower cost digital channels. This resulted in significant decreases in direct mail spending, as evidenced by lower mail volumes from 2007-2009. (See Table 1 in the media player.)
The emergence of digital technological advances, as detailed above, has provided marketers with lower cost options to reengage their target audiences As engaging and dynamic an experience as these new channels are, they are not the be-all and end-all for acquiring and retaining customers. They really are a wonderful, new set of tools in the marketer's tool box, whose value needs to be understood through testing and learning and retesting.