Direct Mail: back to basics.

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Have we reached ‘peak email’ yet? It’s a question we’ve been pondering a lot lately, and certainly one you could be forgiven for asking, especially as you’re no doubt spending more and more time sifting through emails from subscriptions and unsolicited prospectors. How many go straight into the ‘read later’ folder or worse still, the bin? If you’re like us it’s probably a lot. This begs the question whether electronic direct mail (eDMs) really cuts the mustard any more when businesses want to get the attention of a key decision maker?

We’re certainly advocates of digital marketing at The Marketing Clan. But there has to be a point when, somewhat counter-intuitively in a digital world, more traditional means can to be used really make a difference as part of the wider communication mix.

Modern life is showing zero sign of slowing down. As we continue to get busier, the increasing ubiquity and ‘white noise’ of digital media is becoming more of a distraction. This makes the need for more tactical and tangible communication tools even more apparent in the overall marketing promotional toolkit. Creating the right message that is delivered in a more impactful way becomes even more important when measuring ROI.

Yes, digital direct marketing can be a highly cost effective way to reach customers and prospects – providing the data for dispatching is relevant, accurate, clean and used in conjunction with a compelling message, offer or call to action. It clearly also provides measurability in terms of conversion whether it is for a page visit, sign-up or better still, a sale. But how many of these are we getting each day and do they get the attention they are hoping for? It may appear ‘cheap’ on a budget spreadsheet, but what’s the point if it doesn’t actually work?

On the other hand, imagine if you received a genuinely personalised piece of mail on your desk today, would you open it? Chances are you would because in something of a 180-degree role reversal from two decades ago, old school ‘snail mail’ now seems even more unusual and impactful especially if it’s relevant and delivered in a creative way.

Granted, the postal service in Australia has sadly shrunk to limited delivery days and postage has gone up as a result of the digital age, so this needs to be factored in when planning your campaign.

But doesn’t this provide an interesting proposition that can really cut through today? Ironically, Google uses print and direct mail as a global business acquisition tool for Adwords and Adsense. So why is printed direct marketing becoming more important today as part of an overall marketing communications tool?

​Targeting and delivery

Direct mail has been happening since at least the early 1900s, so it’s not only a fine craft in careful execution of an advertising message or offer, but in the selection and personalisation of data that can be delivered to prospects at a relevant time. With more emails flooding our inboxes and less post arriving on our desks, it stands to reason that a carefully crafted and relevant printed direct mail piece is going to cut through in our digital day.


Personalised mail that looks like it has been produced well and has personal details correctly spelt is likely to create a feeling of reassurance and trustworthiness. A business that has taken the time and invested in a creative piece of mail is likely to get read as opposed to a potentially risky and unsolicited SPAM that typically overwhelms our inboxes.

Disruptive not invasive

With less printed direct mail arriving on our desks nowadays, it provides even more opportunity to create communication pieces that cut through. Well-executed ideas with relevant messages and calls to action are going to help provide a positive response afterwards.

Positive brand experience

Receiving an interesting piece of mail creates recall and adds value to the brand experience especially if it offers an unexpected ‘surprise and delight’. A printed piece of creative that is relevant to me and makes me want to read it can provide a persuasive experience, especially if it brings a smile to my face whilst doing it. It is also likely that you are going to want to know more and tell others about it too.

Engagement and action

The more compelling the message, coupled with excellent creative and relevancy, the more reason a printed communication piece is going to provide for the recipient to take action – and at the very least help brand recall when subsequent communication is received as part of a multi-channel campaign. Since a printed piece of communication can be kept and read again, there is also greater opportunity for any action needed to be taken later, a second chance if you like.


Before the rise of digital marketing, direct mail was the benchmark for measurability of a communication campaign. It was a powerful science in its own right, with major brands spending millions each year (often as much if not more than their television advertising budgets) in delivering the right messages to the right people at the right times. They tested offers and messages. They tested creative executions and mail pack formats. Then when they found one that worked really well for them, they set about doing even better! The times may have changed, but the strategy still sounds pretty compelling, don’t you think?

Final word

Printed direct mail certainly isn’t the answer for every brief or brand challenge. But given the commercial landscape has changed so fundamentally in the past decade, it might just be an extra bow that’s well worth reintroducing into your marketing quiver – especially when you’re looking to create a high level of impact and engagement that’s simply impossible via an email, SMS or digital display campaign.

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