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Is Direct Mail Facing Extinction?
By: Aaron Whitaker
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I remember in the '90 when people would complain about all the "junk mail" they would get in the mail. Along with their bills and letters from family, there would be a small stack of flyers and ads and other direct mail pieces. It was terrible until the dawn of email and "spam." Looking back, it doesn’t seem that bad now. So is direct mail dead? Is it dying? Or is it still viable in this digital world?
When I go to get my mail every day, I usually thumb through the ads and flyers and postcards from businesses. Sometimes I just throw the mail on the kitchen table and come back to the direct mail pieces later when I’m hungry and looking for fast food or pizza coupons. When compared with how I deal with spam, direct mail is definitely worth it in my eyes. When I open my email account, I scan the dozens of emails for names I recognize and subject lines that seem interesting or important to open and read. The rest of the emails, I delete right away. While I think emails can be effective in getting sales, I think for many types of businesses, direct mail is still king. If you are a restaurant, heating and cooling company, home improvement company, or auto repair and service shop, I think direct mail is still a worthwhile investment. It’s almost like a Pavlovian response to look through our junk mail when we are in need of one of those companies.
So what about other types of companies? Is direct mail worthwhile? While direct mail costs more than your typical email campaign, I do think that it could be a good idea for most consumer-based businesses to test out and see if it’s effective for their business. When compared to most other digital and traditional channels of advertising, there isn’t as much competition in direct mail compared with the others. Whether it’s TV, radio, PPC ads, billboards, or emails, most markets are flooded with advertisers using these tools to reach their audiences. As a result, many consumers have learned to tune them out and ignore them. So I do think direct mail as well as other less-used marketing channels should be looked into by most businesses.
If you do choose to do a direct marketing campaign, I wouldn’t rush it. Either read up on effective direct mail campaigns or hire a firm that has experience in not only producing direct mail campaigns but are also experts at measuring the response from the campaigns. I think postcards and flyers are more apt to be read than pieces that are sent in envelopes. Personally, I usually throw away anything in an envelope that I know is junk mail. But with a flyer or postcard, I can’t help but glance at it and read it if it looks interesting or the headline hooks me. So is direct mail dead? I say the risk of the U.S. Post Office eventually closing is the biggest threat to direct mail. As long as that doesn’t happen, direct mail will live on for many years to come.

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About the Author
Aaron Whitaker is a copywriter, blogger, and social media aficionado who likes watching the TV commercials more than the actual shows. He prefers reading the magazine ads over the articles. And you can learn more about him online right here.
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