Why Direct Mail and Print Marketing are More Essential Than Ever

In a marketing landscape where your customers and prospective customers are being bombarded with messaging from many different brands, carefully considering the channels and tactics you use to market to your audiences is critical.

In 2013, Marketo’s Definitive Guide to Engaging Email Marketing stated that “on any given day, the average customer will be exposed to 2,904 media messages, will pay attention to 52 and will positively remember only 4.”

That was 2013. Imagine what those stats must be today.

Given that many of those messages come in digital form and are therefore easily ignorable, and transient and temporary in nature, leveraging physical marketing experiences has never been more important or valuable to the goals of a marketer.

When you consider it, there are many important advantages of direct mail advertising.

Highly Targeted

Given the plethora of data that consumers essentially give away and all the companies that aggregate and cleanse that data, acquiring highly targeted lists of suspects and prospects is easier and more cost effective than it’s ever been.

Want to target female beekeepers between the ages of 45 and 54 in Boise, Idaho? There’s a list for that.


Along with all that data comes the ability to leverage variable data printing to go beyond simple personalization and craft direct mail that is highly individualized to the consumer and/or her interaction(s) with your brand. And now, with the advent of print marketing automation, you can trigger those individualized direct mail pieces in real time from your marketing automation platform, CRM, POS, or other data store.

Highly Measurable

With the right strategy and tactics, direct mail and print advertising can be measured quite effectively. Using anything from specific codes to personalized website addresses (PURLs) to QR codes and actual coupons, you can measure your ROI.

Broad Reach

Direct mail and print advertising allows you to reach huge audiences with relative ease. Whether you want to target an entire neighborhood or city, you can easily reach every household. And with just a few points of data about each person on the list, and a little variable data printing, you can make each piece as relevant to the individual recipient as possible—which only makes your overall marketing ROI that much better.

High Open Rates

Seventy-three percent of Americans1 prefer to receive brand communications via direct mail because they can process it at their own pace. Direct mail is effective because physical materials activate the brain more deeply than visual or audio content, resulting in better recall, stronger emotional connections, and improved brand recognition.

More Real Estate

At least compared to many digital advertising options, direct mail and print offer much more creative real estate for branding and messaging.

Not to Mention…Highly Effective

It turns out that direct mail and print advertising can play a valuable role in the modern marketing mix. The IAB Cross-Media Ad Effectiveness Study found some interesting results when it comes to including print in your marketing mix.

Print contributed the largest percentage point changes to all but one key advertising metric in the study with a 90% confidence–aided awareness, brand familiarity, brand favorability, brand consideration, and seek information.

Impact of print advertising and direct mail exposure on key marketing metrics. 
(Click to enlarge.)

Adding print to desktop campaigns raises awareness, familiarity, brand consideration and the desire to seek more information as much or more than desktop alone, mobile web along, or combining desktop, mobile web, and TV.

Why? Well for one thing, according to the DMA, 70% of Americans say physical mail is “more personal” than email and 77% of consumers sort through physical mail as soon as they get it.

Desktop + Print raises awareness, familiarity, brand consideration and the desire to seek more information. (Click to enlarge.)
Direct mail and print advertising produces significant lift, especially when combined with other channels. (Click to enlarge.)

Consumers Trust Physical Marketing

82% and 76% of consumers in a recent study by MarketingSherpa indicated that print ads (newspapers, magazines) and ads/catalogs received in the mail respectively were the most trusted channels when making a purchase decision. That’s 1st and 3rd of 13 channels with TV being 2nd at 80%.

The 8 least trusted channels are all digital. Advertising in newspapers and magazines or via direct mail will tend to add credibility to your product or service, while an online pop-up add will reduce the credibility for your product or service.

Consumers trust direct mail and print advertising. (Click to enlarge.)

And although you’d think that direct mail and print wouldn’t be as effective with Millennials and younger generations, having grown up on computers and phones, 90% of Millennial’s see direct mail messaging as reliable and 57% have made purchases based on direct mail.2

Direct Mail and Print Advertising Effectiveness

According to the DMA Response Rate Report, direct mail outperforms all digital channels combined by nearly 600%.

  • Direct mail achieved a 3.7% response rate with a house list, and a 1.0% response rate with a prospect list. All digital channels combined only achieved a 0.62% response rate (Mobile 0.2%; Email 0.1% for a Prospect list and 0.1% for House/Total list; Social Media 0.1%; Paid Search 0.1%; Display Advertising 0.02%). Telephone had the highest response rate at 9-10%.
  • Cost-per-acquisition for direct mail is very competitive. Direct mail stood at $19, which fared favorably with Mobile and Social Media (both at $16-18), Paid Search ($21-30), Internet Display ($41-50) and even email ($11-15) at the time of the report.
  • According to the study, oversized envelopes had the best response rate at 5.0%, followed by postcards at 4.25%, dimensional 4.0%, catalogs 3.9% and letter-sized envelopes 3.5%.
  • Direct mail offers strong return on marketing investment. It returned the same ROI as social media (15-17%).

At the end of the day, consumers expect omnichannel relationships with brands. And when it comes to direct mail and print, consumers have high levels of trust and engagement.

For brands, omnichannel presents a sum experience that is greater than parts.

1 “Key Insights on Adding Direct Mail to Your Marketing Mix.” Victoria Stephen, Director of Mailing Services and Innovation at USPS. ANA Webinar, 10/19/16.

2 USPS, Felicia Savage, “Don’t Hide In The Bushes: How To Use Direct Mail To Target Millennials”