Dispelling Popular Direct Mail Myths

By Drew Galvin on November 30, 2021

As advances in digital marketing automation continue to emerge, you may be tempted to think the days of direct mail are dead. You’ve probably heard either of these statements before: “It’s not personalized enough…” or “younger generations don’t read their mail.” However, with our decades of experience, we’d like to dispel a few popular direct mail myths and explain why direct mail can be an integral and effective part of a marketing campaign.

Myth #1: Millennials Don’t Respond To Direct Mail

Do Millennials respond to direct mail campaigns? Do Millennials even read direct mail? The short answer to both is yes! A better question may be “where did the idea of mail-averse Millennials come from?” To understand the relationship between direct mail campaigns and this demographic, let’s take a look at a subset of five direct mail myths about Millennials in particular.

Millennials Hate Mail

One reason why some people question whether direct mail is effective for this demographic is because of a prevailing misconception that Millennials hate receiving mail. However, studies show that the majority of Millennials read print ads or inserts from retailers, and most prefer getting their advertisements through the mail. 

While there isn’t necessarily a concrete answer as to why Millennials spend more time sorting and reading their mail than other generations, it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise since the generation as a whole tends to hold on to physical media

Millennials Don’t Trust Direct Mail

Contrary to the idea that Millennials don’t trust the contents of their mailbox, research shows that 90% of Millennials think direct mail advertising is reliable. Millennials are also 24% more likely to show their mail to others compared to 19% of non-Millennials. This means that direct mail, at least among Millennials, may also serve as a conduit for word-of-mouth advertising.

Millennials Throw Their Mail Away

The average lifespan of a piece of direct mail is 17 days. Knowing that Millennials often keep pieces of physical media longer than other generations, it’s safe to say that most won’t toss direct mail in the trash upon receiving it. Plus, a well-crafted direct mail campaign may actually be a physical answer to the sought-after “seven times factor.” 

Millennials Don’t Think Direct Mail Is Personal Enough

Actually, studies have shown that 67% of people see physical mail as being more personal than an email. Seven out of ten Millennials also say they prefer receiving actual mail over digital mail. This is good news for many businesses, as the mailbox still has less competition than the inbox.

Millennials Are Too Glued To Their Phones

This isn’t necessarily a myth, but it doesn’t follow that Millennials won’t engage with direct mail just because they’re digital natives. In fact, 60% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase after seeing an ad when it’s presented across both offline and online channels.

It’s no surprise that the generation raised on the Internet is well-equipped to tune out online ads. With this information in mind, the answer to the question, “does direct mail marketing to Millennials actually work?” is an overwhelming yes.

A picture of a young woman holding white envelopes and reading her mail after receiving it from her mailbox.

Myth #2: Direct Mail Isn’t Personal

The direct mail myth that it isn’t personal enough doesn’t just pertain to the Millennial generation. This is actually a pervasive myth that has kept many businesses from reaching a wider audience and enhancing the success of coveted KPIs (key performance indicators) like ROI and conversion rate.

How can direct mail be personalized? For starters, direct mail personalization isn’t just limited to offers based on certain ZIP codes. By using variable, dynamic data like demographic profiling, targeted list acquisition, and intelligent mail barcode tracking,  direct mail pieces can be even more targeted and effective than other traditional marketing methods, depending on your goal and project.

Myth #3: Direct Mail Is Too Expensive

It’s certainly true that the initial cost of a direct mail campaign may be higher than some of its digital counterparts, but so is the ROI. Finding the right audience to target for a direct mail campaign is most of the battle. Predictive modeling is a process that leverages customer insights (a delicate blend of first-party and third-party consumer data) with data science to identify the prospects with the highest potential for a specific marketing outcome, which ultimately creates your mailing list. With this level of intelligent targeting, you have the potential to receive more engagement, brand awareness, and leads than other marketing methods.

Myth #4: Direct Mail Doesn’t Work

According to a 2020 report by the State of Customer Engagement, direct mail response rates are 6 times higher than all digital channels combined. Many marketers have cited direct mail campaigns as yielding better ROI than digital display and paid search ads for engagement. The report also states that the average direct mail response rate is better than much of its digital counterparts. Consider these powerful personalized direct mail statistics:

  • Nearly 90% of purchase decisions are made at home (BusinessWire)
  • 90% of direct mail gets opened (ANA)
  • 70% of consumers prefer traditional mail for unsolicited offers (ANA)
  • 40% of Millennials regularly purchase items featured in direct mail advertisements (USPS)

A 0.5 to 2% return rate is the average direct mail response rate. With the right technology and processes in place, tracking direct mail responses is certainly possible, and the data shows it’s worth doing to better understand how your target market is interacting with your message. A high response rate indicates you are marketing to the correct demographic, while a low response rate may prompt you to (1) reconsider the tone or design of your marketing collateral, and/or (2) gain a better understanding of your campaign’s demographic by knowing who not to target.

A picture of a man opening an envelope and taking out a letter.

Neuroscience, Physicality, And Direct Mail

In 2019, the effectiveness of direct mail and its influence on consumers was studied by Temple University and the USPS. The studies used up-to-date neuromarketing techniques to better understand visual attention, emotional engagement, and brain activity. Researchers used these techniques with the hope of understanding a person’s conscious and subconscious response to print and digital mediums. Unsurprisingly, both were found to have their advantages.

However, print elicited a stronger emotional response and proved to be more comprehensible and memorable. It also made the products or services more desirable and seemingly valuable. Just like how vinyl records and print books that have grown in popularity as consumers find them more enticing in a digital world, direct mail campaigns and physical marketing collateral have proven their effectiveness over their digital counterparts.

Behavioral psychology continues to give us reasons why we respond so well to things we can feel and touch with our own two hands. But even if you’re not caught up on the latest research or have never seen a personalized direct mail example before, intuition seems to tell us that we, as humans, tend to gravitate towards physical mediums.

We hope this blog has dispelled some popular direct mail myths for you and opened up the possibility for you to consider this powerful and effective marketing medium.

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