Direct Mail: Counted Out by Cynics, Counted On by Consumers
In the hit film Cast Away, actor Tom Hanks' character Chuck Noland, a FedEx productivity expert, survives a plane crash, only to be marooned on a deserted island. After a harrowing trek back to civilization, he finds that his family has given him up for dead.
During his exile, Noland becomes a survival expert, learns about life and defiantly determines to deliver one last parcel from his downed FedEx plane.
North America's direct mail marketers could hardly be blamed for feeling a bit like Chuck Noland, a quietly heroic figure who was counted out, even by his loved ones, only to survive and ultimately emerge victorious.
Direct mail repeatedly and erroneously has been given up for dead. There was the clutter of junk mail, making direct mail the victim of its own success. Then came the technological wonders of email. Then the sky-is-falling demise of the post office. And the threat du jour — abandonment in favor of the lure and hipness of social media.
To get to the truth of the matter, Epsilon Targeting's ICOM division conducted a survey of 2,569 US households and 2,209 Canadian households, including a cross section of consumers ranging in age from 18 to 55 years old and above. This 2010 study examined preferences in regard to the ever-expanding array of communications channels for the delivery of marketing information, offers and promotions.
A fair characterization of the message that came back from the source that really matters, the consumer, is this: Direct mail most certainly is not dead, rather it is an increasingly viable and effective channel to reach and engage purchasing decision-makers in North American households.
The research results confirm the proliferation of channel choices that characterizes today's marketplace. Consumers are indeed using multiple sources to gather information: from blogs to company websites; from mobile to email; from friends and family to mail. But how this translates into decision-making is a very different story. Savvy marketers know that preference and trust come into play. They know they need to identify the combination or balance of channels that not only aligns with their consumer group's preference, but also capitalizes on the core competency of the channel itself.