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Back Talk: What Is The Future Of Direct Mail?

Despite online advances, marketers are still using direct mail to reach hyper specific demographics. What does the future hold for this medium? Share you thoughts in the comments section.

Snail mail — it’s been relegated to the ranks of history and nostalgia. Or, has it? With the portrait of the “average American” shifting faster than the rise in cost of postage, marketers are still using the good ol’ U.S.P.S. to reach hyper specific consumer demographics. And boy, are they specific. The 2010 U.S. census was printed in 65 languages, and for the first time in U.S. history, married couples are now a minority; more than 27 percent of households are inhabited by singles, and more than 10 million households in the U.S. are multi-generational. Demographics like these make direct mail — in which marketers can tailor language and control content more easily — seem just as appealing than its online counterparts. Still, email and social media do make convincing allies.

Maybe I’m just blogging out loud, but it seems like direct mail will always have a place in the consumer mailbox, be it real or virtual. The challenge for marketers is to reach shoppers in the right medium, with the right message.

Which begs the question: What do you think is the future of direct mail? Will it survive modern advances? How can marketers use both to work to their advantage?

We want to hear you thoughts!

Brought to you by Vertical Marketing Network, a Leading Integrated Marketing Agency.
Photo credit: uzvards

About JJ Nelson

Freelance blogger for Vertical Marketing Network; food writer; bartender.

11 comments on “Back Talk: What Is The Future Of Direct Mail?

  1. KJ
    July 28, 2011

    Whether direct mail continues to be important depends to some degree on the USPO financial dynamic. The USPO is losing buckets of money and is closing POs. The bulk of the mail now is advertising of some sort and 1st Class will probably continue to decline. That means there will be pressure to raise rates and at some point there wil come a time when DM costs may exceed returns. The future of DM depends on the ability to get it delivered at cost justifiable rate and the rate of return.


  2. Philip
    July 28, 2011

    Reaching consumers is part art and part science, and that has always been the case. You develop the message and deliver it through the right channels. With the popularity of social media and email, these are two important avenues for delivering content, but they do not negate the need for communications to be delivered in other ways, including in your mailbox. Personalized and relevant content delivered in a creative manner will tend to get noticed inside the mailbox. Laying that communications with online vehicles only strengthens the message.


  3. Russ Kerr
    July 28, 2011

    Our research shows an estimated increase in 2011 spending for digital and direct marketing channels…as opposed to a decrease in traditional “above the line” advertising versus 2010. The trick is where to spend, and in what categories, in order to break through all the clutter. Interestingly, the direct mail channel, which was pronounced dead in 2010 by most industry critics, not only showed growth in 2010 of almost 3%, but it’s predicted to almost double that growth in 2011. 98% of all households interact with mail on a daily basis, either at home or at work…it’s simply engrained in our culture.

    That said, delivering personalized relevant content at every touch point is critical, and delivering the relevant content through the right channel or combination of channels. This includes using techniques that leverage, or “bridge,” the best aspects of both traditional offline channels and emerging online channels. Bridging offline and online channels presents the opportunity to create a very powerful and engaging experience for your target audience.

    One way to do this is through the use of Discmail, a web-enabled optical media disc (CD/DVD) that is delivered through the mail via a tangible dimensional mailer or personalized packaging, conveying instant brand recognition and immediately connecting your target with your brand’s message. The recipient simply inserts the disc into any PC or MAC. The disc finds and establishes a server
    connection over the Internet and then validates and registers the user. This also establishes a connection to a program database that will allow personalized, custom content to be displayed. The
    recipient is viewing content resident on the disc, as well as web-based content that is seamlessly integrated through the connection.

    So, we don’t think traditional direct mail is dead. On the contrary, it’s on the rise. Marketers just need to find new, interesting and relevant ways to bridge the gap between it and online marketing techniques.

    Russ Kerr
    VP, Sales


    • JJ Nelson
      August 1, 2011

      Thanks for contributing to the conversation, Russ!


  4. ballisticdesigns
    July 27, 2011

    With all the advances in social media, I’m still waiting for concrete numbers that says social media increases business. Twitter and Facebook has failed to produce any real results. Linkedin on the other hand is business oriented and I can see the value there.

    With that said. Direct mail when done right can result in a better return then social outlets. Yes its more expensive. Yes it takes time to see results. But its a great marketing vehicle to create brand awareness and promote your latest goods and services. You gotta think people are using DM less which opens the door for you to use the medium more.

    A successful campaign hinges on good creative and a compelling message. If your using DM to promote your wine business it should sing to your target audience and stop them in there tracks to pay attention to your promotion.

    Example: You have to think outside the “wine box.” Now… I said that on purpose to grab your attention. The word “wine” and “box” stirs enough curiosity that you want to to learn more.

    Another thing to remember is that size does matter. Your DM piece should be no smaller then 11.5 x 6. The size alone will cut through the clutter.

    So the formula here is: good creative + compelling message + size= results.

    To get results your going to have to commit to at lease 3 mail drops maybe more once a month (industry speak for how many time you mail it out). Consumers make buying decision usually around the 4th or 5th touch.

    I hope this helps clear the mystery of DM. Have fun with it, get creative and you won’t be disappointed. Here is a sample direct mail piece we did for a client. I would be interested to know your thoughts on it.

    If you would like to know more about our services you can visit us at:
    or call 805-523-8418

    Bill De Smet
    Creative Director
    Ballistic Designs, Inc.


    • JJ Nelson
      July 27, 2011

      Great comments, Bill! Thanks for contributing to the conversation.


  5. KWARD
    July 27, 2011

    I agree with many of the points mentioned above re: shape, offer, target audience, quality etc….alll have to be correct, and although offers on-line can be acted upon instantly via hyperlinking, not all are comfortable or up to speed with that…particularly seniors, even babyboomers are lagging in computer apptitude, so DM still can work.
    I believe there are 2 factors affecting the future of DM. 1.) the economy of postage and the future of USPS 2.) the US economy. If it is still affordable for marketers to connect via DM it will survive and might even flourish as the eClutter explodes and people start to ignore it. Secondly, if the US economy continues to nosedive, coupons and DM offers may increase in value and be utilized more.


  6. MarketTouch
    July 27, 2011

    It’s all about quality marketing communications. DM can be a very powerful element of your mix or campaign.

    My doorstep at home is testament to the fact that so much direct marketing is low quality ‘spam’ mail – very poorly targeted, poorly written, printed on cheap paper and sent to thousands of doorsteps without any thought or consideration. This brings direct mail a poor reputation.

    I agree with Nicco above – good quality and well thought out DM can be very powerful indeed.


    • JJ Nelson
      July 27, 2011

      Great comment. My doorstep is also littered with spam-like DM. It makes one think about the possibilities for effective DM campaigns.


  7. Valerie
    July 26, 2011

    Better quality direct mail pieces definitely get open. But to motivate an action, the content and offer(s) need to be relevant to the members of my household. Maintaining a good direct mail list takes on-going work but is an effective way to reach target markets.


  8. Nicco
    July 26, 2011

    We all get bombarded with direct mail pieces every day. To get me to review a direct mail piece, it must be relevant to my interests or needs and break through the clutter. The higher quality, personalized pieces that have exclusive promotional offers from places, retailers or services I have used or visited always garner my attention first. The oversized pieces along with unique and creative shapes have also been a great way to catch my eye. With that said, the targeted offers I receive online or via mobile are timely, easy to act upon and share with friends which makes them my preferred method of receiving promotions.


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This entry was posted on July 26, 2011 by in Uncategorized.

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