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Direct Mail is Still Ticking

Much has been said about the state of direct mail in today’s marketing environment. Some say it is dying; it will never be what it once was; the consumer doesn’t respond to direct mail anymore; and so on. Some organizations have even stopped using direct mail as a primary channel of acquisition. But what is really going on there?

It is true that direct mail volume has been fading fast from its high in the mid-2000’s. I can remember one of my clients hitting the 1-billion-mailpiece mark during one of those years!  Of course, that was before the financial crisis and the explosion of targeted digital channels and all the supporting and higher functioning technology that went along with it.

And it’s very likely that we’ll never see those kinds of volumes again. In a marketing environment that now has to share budgets across many very legitimate channels, the piece of pie gets smaller and smaller. But don’t forget that the marketing environment is also developing around optimization. And this is where we’ll start to see an equaling out of marketing spend and adjusted budgets that will be based on performance.

The pendulum always swings back and forth. And just as we saw direct mail swallowing up all the budgets 10 years ago, and flooding consumer mail boxes, we are now seeing digital channels begin to do the exact same thing.  Considering they are generally less expensive, marketers are growing their marketing budgets here; and as a result, email inboxes are now getting flooded and consumers are being chased from website to website with display ads.  What we’ll find is that an oversaturation point with online marketing will begin to settle in as well. 

Additionally, cross-channel attribution will continue to develop. And as the sophistication of this tracking methodology improves, marketers will begin to see the true value of their marketing dollar in various channels, as well as the thresholds that can be maintained before the return on investment begins to turn south.

I’m not saying this will swing the pendulum back to the good old direct mail days. But a “settling in point” will begin to emerge that will create a secure, steady, and optimized approach to channel selection. And direct mail will definitely have a place in that mix.

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