Is Direct Mail Back from the Dead?

What do Take That, Robert Downey Jr and nineties fashion have in common? Over the last few years, they’ve all made a pretty remarkable comeback. The same can be said for direct mail - after years of junk mail going straight in the recycling bin, until our daily post dwindled down to the occasional bank statement or pizza leaflet, it seemed like direct mail was really on its way out. But amazingly, and maybe a little confusingly, direct mail has been experiencing quite the revival as of late. A few weeks ago, we talked a little about the resurgence of direct mail marketing in our Back to Basics blog post. And since then we’ve noticed that direct mail has been popping up more and more, proving itself to be an extremely effective means of brand communication. Despite its old school connotations, direct mail is re-establishing itself as a disruptive and innovative force in the marketing world. So today we’re delving a little deeper, and thinking about how and why direct mail is making waves in the marketing world. 


Make It Personal


The excitement of getting actual, physical post in these technology-crazy days is undeniable, and when it’s done effectively, direct mail marketing can really the way for a personal relationship between brand and customer. It’s no longer just a case of “Dear Homeowner” or “To The Residents of _____”, in this day and age the brands attracting the most attention are the ones that really make an effort to understand their customers and communicate with them on a personal level. In the case of direct mail, this all stems from targeting the right people. As direct mail is considerably more expensive than sending an email, it means companies really have to put considerable thought and attention into who precisely they are communicating with. This generally means that direct mail marketing is much more honed and targeted, as is obvious with IKEA’s recent direct mail campaign, launched in 2013. Aimed at cohabiting couples, the Swedish furniture giant identified customers with gardens on their properties and then sent them personalised weather forecasts via direct mail, just in time for the bank holiday weekend. This memorable campaign captured IKEA’s playful personality perfectly, as well as helping them to establish a real relationship with a selection of their customers. 


On a similar note, the moving company Pickfords has also capitalised on the success of personalised direct mail. The brand targets households whose home is on the market or under offer, inviting them to use their removal services. By sending homeowners on the brink of a big move memorable and luxurious mailings reminiscent of wedding invitations, the brand is making itself memorable to its target audience, and really making an effort to distance itself from typical ‘junk mail’. It’s clear that direct mail serves a different purpose to email marketing in this day and age, influencing marketers to dedicate their attention to a far more cultivated and pinpointed customer base than with digital marketing. 


Get Creative


Not only does direct mail allow brands to get up close and personal with really relevant potential customers, it also provides the perfect excuse for brands to express their voice in a creative and unexpected way. We’ve written in the past about creative direct mail campaigns and how successful they have been, and creative direct mail campaigns just keep appearing. It’s clear that direct mail really is the perfect opportunity for marketers to get creative and think outside the box, while creating something truly memorable and really making a statement about their brand. 


 One brand that has really expressed their creative voice through direct mail, and encouraged their customers to express themselves too, is Monarch. The airline has capitalised on the personal benefits of direct mail with their ‘Colour Your Summer’ campaign which was launched last summer. This direct mail initiative involved Monarch sending prospective customers simple line drawings of holiday scenes and famous destinations, inviting them to “colour your summer”. The campaign brilliantly lifted direct mail straight into the 21st century with a nod to the incredibly successful craze of adult colouring books that has taken over in recent years. As a direct result of the campaign, Monarch experienced a 70% increase in social engagement, and bookings increased by 11% month-on-month. It’s clear that creativity is key to increase brand engagement, and direct mail is a perfect way to express your brand and attract a whole new kind of attention. 


A Winning Combination


One thing most of the campaigns we’ve talked about so far have in common is this - they’re not just direct mail. Most if not all of them also contained online and digital tie-ins, for example a call to action in the physical mail, such as a QR code, a link to a social campaign, webpage or online video. This combination of direct mail and digital shows that although a brand is using a traditional marketing strategy, they are still relevant and up to date, and understand the importance of technology. Particularly when trying to attract millennial and fledgling customers, this combination of direct mail and digital is key - although many marketers dismiss direct mail as ineffective for young consumers, 65.8% of those questioned agreed that they were more likely to remember to use a voucher if they had a physical copy of it to carry around. 


In fact, direct mail, when applied correctly, can actually be far more effective than email, as according to a 2013 study by Royal Mail, 70% of people in the UK feel they receive too many marketing emails. Although email marketing is undoubtedly still an incredibly effective tool, it can’t be denied that many customers are sick and tired of the inbox overload that some marketing emails are responsible for. What’s more, 92% of customers were driven to online or digital activity as a direct result of receiving mail, according to a survey conducted by Royal Mail in 2014, as many believe direct mail has a more authoritative and legitimate connotation than other forms of marketing. 



It’s clear that direct mail really is making a comeback, and although it’s maintaining its traditional image, direct mail is definitely stepping into the 21st century. From personalised weather reports, to  gilded moving invitations and colouring-in illustrations, all complete with a digital call to action, it’s obvious that direct mail is a force to be reckoned with. Brands are really beginning to think outside the box to target and communicate with new and returning customers of all ages, and the statistics indicate that those involving a direct mail campaign are making a real impact and experiencing impressive brand engagement.

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