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Dinosaur … or Rising Phoenix in This Digital Age?!

Direct Mail Marketing in 2020

The evidence is clear … direct mail marketing is making a resounding comeback after being increasingly dominated for nearly a decade by digital ad media. The reasons come down to three major consumer perception issues:

  • Saturation.
  • Impaired credibility.
  • Preference for printed media.


Digital advertising overload is overwhelming. Estimates report hundreds in your inbox before your first cup of coffee … followed by a daily avalanche that can reach or exceed four figures.

Enlightened self-interest is a human defense mechanism. And U.S. internet users (virtually everyone!) have a healthy sense of self-preservation when it comes to being bombarded with ads each time they log on. The first line of defense is to ignore the promotional intrusion. A digital marketing rule of thumb appears to be that maybe two percent of ads deliver on the promise of having actionable impact on consumers.

Here’s a blockbuster illustration of that very point. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Facebook Inc. announced that over a two-year period, it had overestimated by up to 80% the average time people spent watching video ads on its platform. Hmmm … sounds like a defensive move by consumers and a major marketing budget blow to advertisers.

Bottom-line is that impatience with digital assaults spawns diminished attention spans. That means pop-up ads, banners and video are increasingly ignored. Look at your delete button … most used and sporting the most faded label.

Impaired Credibility

Consumer credibility has taken a giant-step back. Consider one channel alone, social media. The average person spends a couple of hours every day on one or more social media sites. That fuels marketers to capitalize on a relatively inexpensive way to gain exposure to millions. Result …millions of consumers hammered by ads, often heralding products with questionable claims and dubious deliverables.

Again, Americans on the internet are not stupid! And they demonstrate that by increasing skepticism of advertising in the digital world and the torrent of clickbait solicitations.

Preference for Printed Media

Now here’s where statistics tell the story.

A Nielsen consumer survey report on advertising found that catalogues and flyers have the highest impact on people’s buying decisions with 62 percent of respondents rating them highest. That’s in contrast to only 12 percent preferring online ads.

Millennials pay more attention to print. About half of this, the largest single generation in the U.S., says they ignore digital advertisements, while only 15% say they ignore direct mail. Print ads are perceived as more reliable and engender a significantly higher response rate.

Purchase decisions are prompted by print ads. Print is considered a more trustworthy and authoritative source of information and enhances confidence in product and service offerings. Additionally, print ads give folks time to think … even if that results in it being trashed, it did receive attention and conscious consideration … unlike the unthinking impulse to hit the delete key.

Consider these findings presented in an infographic released by the Experian Data Quality group

  • 70% of Americans say physical mail is “more personal” than email.
  • 70 to 80% of direct mail recipients say they open it, even if it looks like junk mail.
  • 60% of direct mail recipients will visit a website if the ad lists one.
  • 28% more is spent by recipients of direct mail

Research shows that direct mail is steadily making a comeback.

Covid-19 – Best Use of Direct Mail

The C-19 pandemic has affected every business and individual in the U.S. From a marketing perspective, B2C businesses and B2B direct mail plans may take on a distinctly different profile. B2C marketers will continue to enjoy exposure to their consumers. Alternatively, B2B companies face an additional challenge … many employees are now working from home and not accessible to commercial messages via the USPS. That may mean to put promotional plans on hold until those workers are back in the office.

Regardless of your audience during this health and economic crisis, it’s important to project a genuine sense of empathy for what your customers and prospects are facing. That means demonstrating sensitivity to what folks are going through.

Emphasize your sense of optimism that “this too shall pass” and we’re all in it together and will emerge as stronger individuals and enterprises. Certainly, don’t capitalize on the crisis prompted by the C-19 emergency. Yes, tout your products and services that can help prospects during this calamity without offers of “coronavirus specials” … please!! Deliver your mail campaign with a positive message that conveys sincerity, understanding and a true desire to be of help.

One final thought … social distancing is a person-to-person, one-on-one reality. Commercial distancing should not be an extension of that preventive measure during the marketing era of C-19.

Research shows that direct mail works. Don’t let C-19 quarantine you from your customers.