Cover Story: The Top 50 Mailers
What a difference a year makes. With the U.S. Postal Service reporting mail volume on the decline to the tune of billions of pieces, it comes as no surprise that the 2009 Top 50 Mailers list is greatly changed from its 2008 counterpart.
One-third of the companies on last year's list were knocked out by the recession's effect on their marketing budgets—and they primarily were replaced by companies that are new to the Top 50. Especially hard-hit was the financial sector, which has dominated the direct mail field with respect to estimated volume for three years straight. But not this time around, as Capital One and Bank of America are the lone banking reps on the file for 2009.
Looking at the list broken down by sector, nonprofits widened their lead even more during the past year. They now account for 44 percent of the file, about a 15 percent increase. At 36 percent, publishers have maintained their perennially strong showing, especially now that they have taken over the top two deciles of the file from a volume perspective. Finally, merchandise marketers muscled in a little further to command 6 percent of the list.
Interestingly, Sprint/Nextel fought its way back into the Top 50, after being absent in 2008, due to its huge, multichannel branding campaign. And DirecTV likely made it into the ranks because of the extra communications it mailed to capitalize on the recent government-mandated switch from analog to digital television service.
The economy might be the main driver of the recent activity in the Top 50 list, but there's no doubt the ongoing shift of marketing dollars from print to digital campaigns has influenced which firms made the list and how high up. With their robust postal databases, publishers and nonprofits continue to get good performance from direct mail while they build their online acquisition strategies. "What we're seeing is that while file sizes are overall diminishing, those companies who are multichannel and keeping direct mail active tend to not be seeing the same file size attrition and also the performance of their files is holding up much, much better," notes Fran Green, chief revenue strategist for American List Counsel, the list and data services firm that helps Target Marketing develop this annual analysis.
It's anyone's guess as to what next year's Top 50 list will look like. Many agree that it's not likely direct mail volumes will rebound to their pre-economy levels when the recession lifts, but that should only create some great opportunities for marketers who know how to succeed in this channel.
To download a PDF of The Top 50 Mailers, click here.