When email first became a widespread communication tool, its immediacy and targetability convinced many industry experts that it would become the direct marketing technique of choice, to the detriment of traditional methods such as direct mail. Yet whilst direct mail’s fortunes have fluctuated since email’s arrival, it remains essential to the marketing mix.
So, what’s behind its enduring popularity? Certainly, advances in printing and the creative use of envelopes have combined to create stand out messages. But, crucially, this is happening alongside a growing consumer distrust for all things digital.
Analysts are calling this the ‘post-truth’ world, where opinion is umpired by Internet voices and accusations of ‘fake news’ abound. As a result, the printed word is increasingly associated with greater credibility and trust.
Consumers understand that mail takes time and effort to produce, and its messaging is seen as more considered.
The introduction of GDPR legislation is indicative of the atmosphere of mistrust surrounding digital. Introduced to better protect citizens’ rights and govern the way companies use data, GDPR caused concern amongst brands who wondered how it would impact marketing. However, savvy businesses are exploring ways of delivering messaging that is GDPR compliant but also reaches every possible prospect. Direct mail is playing a major role.
Initiatives such as Royal Mail’s Partially Addressed Mail (PAM) are helping. PAM is a GDPR compliant prospecting tool allowing targeted mail marketing without the use of personal data. Replacements such as ‘Occupier’ or ‘Valued customer’ are used instead of the recipient’s name, overcoming the potential problems of a reduced prospect pool. Royal Mail estimates that businesses can reach up to 30% more households in one mailing using the service.
Of course, reaching prospects is one thing, influencing them is quite another. Research shows mail’s advantage here. Opening post requires more interaction and engagement than reading an email and studies have shown that people are more likely to recall messaging received in physical mail.
There is also a perception that mail only works with older recipients. However, millennials have been found to respond warmly to its tangible impact and clever direct mail marketing taps into this emotional pull.
This is not to say that direct mail should be used in isolation. However, neurological studies have shown that messages delivered digitally are more recognisable if prospects have first been contacted via the mail.
Ultimately, direct mail is starting to generate excitement again and businesses dismissing the technique as old-hat are in danger of looking out of touch. Used creatively and compliantly, it presents a stand-out alternative to the digital deluge. Consumers are responding with trust, brand loyalty and share of wallet.
Lauren Metaal is sales and marketing director at The Delivery Group
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