Cover Story : The Top 50 Mailers
The fifth annual listing of top mailers as measured by volumeSeptember 2010 By Hallie Mummert & Melissa Ward
The more things change on Target Marketing's Top 50 Mailers list, the more they stay the same. As I write this, mail volume continues to plummet; the U.S. Postal Service reported a drop just shy of another billion pieces for the third quarter of its 2010 fiscal year. So with increasingly less First-Class and Standard Mail in circulation, what do consumers find in their mailboxes these days?
According to this year's Top 50 Mailer list, it's more offers from nonprofits and publishers. While the nonprofit sector has always been dominant in the channel, it now carries more than half (52 percent) of our list of heavy mail users in the U.S. Publishers typically have walked almost hand-in-hand with their fundraising colleagues, but their 2009 marketing activities led to a 10-percent decrease in representation on the list—putting them at 32 percent. The remaining 16 percent is a smattering of insurance, financial services, food, merchandise, business services and even consumer packaged goods firms.
Cracking the Top 50 Mailers list for the first time is Procter & Gamble, which might be living up to the second half of its name depending on how it's using direct mail. The channel is not the most cost-efficient way to sell low-cost consumables, like mouthwash and potato chips. However, it could be used selectively to sample new products and encourage influencers to help promote them.
In all, about 25 percent of the list rotated out from the 2009 analysis to the present one, compared to a 33 percent shift experienced between 2008 and 2009. Of that group, the most musical-chairs players came from the nonprofit sector, followed by merchandise and financial services. The latter sector has continued to fall out of love with direct mail, with just one bank—Citigroup—hanging on to a spot on the list.
When a consumer is likely to be sorting through one nonprofit appeal or magazine subscription package after another, what can these direct mail users (as well as firms in other sectors) do to maintain their competitiveness? Fran Green, president of American List Counsel's SMART Data Solutions, points out that savvy marketers are leveraging PURLs, audience segmentation, timing, purchase history and other data-powered tactics. "It used to be that you had transactional, geographic and demographic data, and that's all," she explains. "Now, you can overlay activities a customer took on your website or social media influence and interests [to build a more complete picture for targeting]."