The Future of Direct Mail
As discussed in my Editor's Note, this issue of Inside Direct Mail will be our last print issue. While that is an unfortunate event, the good news is that IDM will continue to live ... on the web, as a weekly e-newsletter.
IDM has played a valuable role for direct mailers and marketers for 25 years. Now, rather than bemoan the decline of print, we're going to celebrate our past and be excited about the digital future of this publication. After all, Inside Direct Mail Weekly promises to be more relevant and of greater service than ever.
Similarly, direct mail has been a successful workhorse for decades for many companies, but now seeks to remain relevant in these trying times. Therefore, to deliver a cover story worthy of IDM's long history in print, I went with the topic on everyone's mind: the future of direct mail.
It made perfect sense to open up these crucial questions to IDM's frequent contributors over the years, including leading copywriters and direct marketers. Response was overwhelming, in a positive way, so I've compiled the great answers I received via phone and email into a roundtable, in which we tackle one big question after the next.
Boldt: In your opinion, what is the future of direct mail? Will direct mail resume its former position when (and if!) the economy restabilizes, or is this channel forever altered?
Herschell Gordon Lewis, copywriter: Direct mail never again will see the apex of supremacy it enjoyed in its golden period-as a loose estimate, 1946-1996. But, paralleling media threatened by online intruders, it will continue, because it has a permanence and completeness. The new media can't match those elements because they're geared to a shortened attention span.
Steve Cuno, chairman of Response Agency: No one knows the future of direct mail, but two factors point to an opportunity. One, thanks to the internet, mailboxes today contain mostly advertising mail, most of which is inept. The other factor is that, unlike spam, direct mail cannot go into the trash without a recipient at least taking a look. For both reasons, our shop has found that well-targeted, well-executed direct mail rises to the top with greater power than ever. But note the qualifiers "well-targeted" and "well-executed." Inept mail works no better than it ever did.