Back from the dead: postal mail in a digital world

Someone asked:

Really, is anyone still using snail mail? Management at the U.S. Postal service just took another hit in their struggle to remain relevant when they defaulted on their second payment and warned of more losses this year. 

Is this the final proof that direct mail is dead or perhaps just walking dead?

Night of the Living Direct Mail

Ask any direct marketer: direct mail is still animated, and will be as long as it still averages a response rate around 4 percent, compared to less than 1 percent for display ads, search and email combined. In fact, Millward Brown reported in a recent study that “physical media–AKA direct mail–left a ‘deeper footprint’ in the brain” than digital marketing. Printed marketing pieces stand out a lot more in postal inboxes because volume is down. But given the expense of direct mail, it has much to account for when measured against the virtually free world of digital and mobile marketing.

Of course “free” marketing doesn't mean anything if it can't bring conversions.

The New Breed of Marketing

Integrating postal mail with mobile and digital marketing is a win-win for everyone. (Naturally the postal service agrees.) This past summer the USPS offered two months of discounts on letters and postcards that include a two-dimensional barcode or print/mobile technology. Now that promotion is being extended into the holiday season so the marketers (and consumers) can get the most out of Black Friday promotions.

As businesses grudgingly accept the new world of hyper-personalized marketing, expect to see more integrated campaigns running as cross-channel, lifecycle marketing programs. As the Web grows more mobile, social and local every day, marketers will have to upgrade every weapon in their arsenals to keep reaching their target customers.

Over the last few years, we've seen more and more direct marketing companies add our digital media database to their resources. Now we're seeing digital marketing companies ask about our list research database, as they reach out for postal options for integrated campaigns.

Age of Individuals

The rise of integrated campaigns is giving a massive transfusion to direct mail campaigns. Many digital-focused marketers were caught off guard by a recent report from Epsilon Targeting, showing that the 18-34 market actually prefers direct mail for some types of information. A significant portion of consumers also consider direct mail more trustworthy than email. After all, how many postcards have you gotten from Nigeria lately? This can be read as the triumph of targeting, as blind mailings represent the portion of direct mail that are (and should be) truly dead in the Age of Individuals.

This reincarnation of direct mail promises to be a hot topic at this year's DMA2012 conference, going on now in Las Vegas. We're there now at Booth #317...if you are too, stop by to say hi!

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