Does direct mail work in the digital age?

17th July 2020
Aoibheann Schwartz

It’s the 21st century, and digital is overtaking every department of every business – whether that’s a law firm, a startup, a creative agency, household brand, local company, or a conglomerate. And the area that digital is transforming the most is marketing. So has print communication, such as marketing collateral and direct mail campaigns, been made completely redundant by the age of digital marketing, mass email campaigns, Facebook Ads, and Google? How can print adapt to keep up?

At a first glance, it would seem that digital platforms offer higher returns because of their efficiency, reach, and rapid means of distribution. However, interestingly enough, the stats and data show that the level of brand recall which occurs after seeing a digital ad is just 44%, compared to direct mail which has a brand recall of 75%. This shows us that consumer psychology and core marketing principles have not changed: personal touch and tangible assets are important.

The alternative to email overwhelm

People often also feel overwhelmed by emails; 70% of the UK say they receive too many. This can make print less imposing and more personal, easier and more enjoyable to engage with. People also trust physical mail and advertising more than email, probably because there is more effort that goes into print communication.

After all, you can’t hang an aesthetically pleasing email on the mantelpiece – and where would we be at Christmas, if we all just stored our Christmas cards in our online inbox?

Now that we’ve established how print and mail still have their place in the modern day marketing campaign, let’s dive into how you can create a successful one for your brand or company, to reach and connect with your ideal audiences, build brand loyalty, and of course, prompt conversions, subscriptions, and purchases of your product or service.

Throw out the junk mail

The first step on your way to print marketing success is to forget the archaic image and perception many of us have of direct mail. Most people think of the term “junk” mail in association with any direct mail they receive on their doorstep or in the post. Brochures, letters, flyers, newsletters, catalogues – even coupons and packages, are some examples which spring to mind.

Interactive newsletters full of clicks and links and easy access to information can sound much more appealing. But – what if print communications could be just as interactive – even more so, than the magical and glittery content which lands in our inboxes every day?

Strategic Tips

When getting started with your next print direct mail campaign, it’s vital to be as strategic about it as you would be with your digital marketing. If you would normally carry out the research and collect data for your digital marketing initiatives, why not do so the same for your physical collateral?

Here are a few points and tips to keep in mind which should help to keep your print collateral creation focused:

1. Focus on one concept, and create your brand assets around it.

Every campaign promotes or communicates a core concept or message. To make sure your print marketing is effective, you need to know your product, service, or offering inside out, and how its value could translate into the medium of print. What is the goal of the piece of mail you are sending?

2. Know your audience and your target market.

What are their pain points? What inspires them? What do they want to read? What material will catch their attention? Once you have built a mailing list and created target personas, then you will be able to better define your messaging and content. You might even figure out ways to surprise them, and go beyond their expectations!

3. Prioritise your creative team.

Aligning copy, content, design, visuals, and branding is absolutely central to the success of your direct mail. You have one second to catch the attention of your recipient, and the best brands achieve this with killer design and copy. If all elements don’t align, however, the end result won’t be as effective, no matter how pretty each individual element is on its own.

4. Get feedback.

Ideally, it would be the cherry on top of a great campaign if your customers and audience raised their voices and expressed their delight at receiving your impressive marketing materials. Has anyone tweeted about it? Have you encouraged any of your customers to, or engaged with them through social media about their response to it? How can you track whether it has been successful or not? This will all depend on how you decide to measure the success of your campaigns and its goals. Whether that means tracking increases in conversions, sales, subscriptions, or just an increase in interest in your product and service, make sure to measure the returns of your print campaigns as much as your digital ones.

Make it Relevant

Marketing methods, channels, platforms and tools may change, but the goal of marketing and advertising never will. And that goal is to make a connection with your audience. Now, purpose is more important than ever, so make sure that your print and mail materials communicate your brand’s purpose.

Get Creative

The possibilities for creation are endless, if you have a savvy creative team with business know-how. Once you know your audience, and have decided on your messaging and any emotive drive, it’s time to get started on bringing it all to life.

Content is king, because it is eye-catching, whether on screen or in print – and possibly even more so in print. And there’s nothing to confine your campaigns to flat or 2D collateral, either. Depending on your budget, you can go above and beyond the regular rectangular brochure or leaflet, and extend the concept of the campaign to the mail packaging and its accompaniments. This allows customers to interact with your brand in a more real life manner than ever.

The future of print communications

Print media reaches groups, communities, and collectives, as well as individuals. It’s a way of retaining customers which is long term and durable, and less fleeting than many digital campaigns. It can be more believable and relatable if properly executed, and the authentic and personal touch will always be here to stay.

And it’s not just about filling your physical and print campaigns with freebies and gizmos, but with objects, trinkets, and souvenirs which prompt either emotion or connection, and which are representative of your brand’s purpose – which of course, then triggers brand loyalty, and maybe even a purchase or subscription down the line.

The data tells a positive story for the future of print communication. The Direct Marketing Association found that direct mail’s response rate is 4.4% — compared to just 0.12% for email. Maybe digital marketing teams will need to learn from some of the strategies, techniques, and results that print achieves!