EM360 Digital Blog

16 Mar 2018
Image of couple in Detroit won over by direct mail marketing.

Is Direct Mail The Secret Marketing Weapon of 2018?

It’s 2018. Baby Boomers are in their six­ties, Gen­er­a­tion Xers are in their for­ties, and Mil­len­ni­als are in their thir­ties. Now Gen­er­a­tion Z is on the scene and they are a con­sumer force to be reck­oned with.

While pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions cer­tain­ly mat­ter when it comes to mar­ket­ing, these young peo­ple, most­ly teenagers at this point, will come to define con­sumer spend­ing in the com­ing years. Any mar­ket­ing strate­gies which have a shred of hope for suc­cess need to take this group of peo­ple into con­sid­er­a­tion.

We are not just talk­ing about a new age of con­sumer, we are address­ing an alto­geth­er new con­sumer. In con­sid­er­ing mar­ket­ing tech­niques for the com­ing year, busi­ness­es will first need to find strate­gies to tar­get the emerg­ing Gen­er­a­tion Z.

Breaking Down Gen Z By The Numbers

Those from Gen­er­a­tion Z were born in the mid-1990’s through the ear­ly 2010s, and will com­prise about 40% of the con­sumer mar­ket in the years ahead. Though most­ly still in their teens, this emerg­ing Gen­er­a­tion Z wield as much as $44 bil­lion in dis­cre­tionary spend­ing. That’s a lot of mon­ey they’re spend­ing on prod­ucts and ser­vices.

This is a mar­ket that sim­ply can’t be over­looked, and find­ing the right mar­ket­ing strate­gies will be essen­tial for any kind of mean­ing­ful suc­cess in the com­ing year. Mar­ket­ing goals and strate­gies will be in large part all about fig­ur­ing out this demographic—how to reach them and what, exact­ly, they are look­ing for.

Image of young people.Marketing To Generation Z

Con­sid­er­ing the make­up and pref­er­ences of Gen­er­a­tion Z, the chal­lenges for direct mail can seem daunt­ing. How­ev­er, many of these same mar­ket forces could actu­al­ly be very pos­i­tive for direct mar­ket­ing.

Gen­er­a­tion Z con­sumers have grown up with the inter­net. From their youth, they under­stand screens and apps and mobile phones. They think in terms of dig­i­tal infor­ma­tion. Tar­get­ing starts with this basic fact.

On the sur­face, it can seem like the only way to reach Gen­er­a­tion Z is through dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing. That seems to be the approach many busi­ness­es are tak­ing. But direct mail mar­ket­ing has some dis­tinct advan­tages over dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing.

Actu­al­ly, the “Four Ps” of mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions strat­e­gy: price, place, pro­mo­tion, and prod­uct are best man­aged via direct mail mar­ket­ing. Rather than rely­ing on dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing for­mats (online ads, emails, etc.) which can get lost in the sea of oth­er infor­ma­tion, direct mail mar­ket­ing lands in the hands of cus­tomers and com­mu­ni­cates direct­ly the infor­ma­tion mar­keters are try­ing to con­vey about a brand.

On top of this, dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing has actu­al­ly hit some­thing of a snag in recent times. Con­sumers are con­stant­ly bom­bard­ed with dig­i­tal adver­tis­ing to the point that they have built up a men­tal fil­ter for the ads they see on a con­stant basis. It’s just too much. With ads appear­ing on every web­site, social media plat­form and app, it’s infor­ma­tion over­load.

It’s esti­mat­ed that con­sumers only see about 9% of the adver­tis­ing they are exposed to, and even that is only for a mat­ter of sec­onds. Only 9%!

This means that a mas­sive amount of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing flies right past the intend­ed audi­ence and is wast­ed. The mil­lions of dol­lars spent on dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing dis­ap­pear into the inter­net.

At least par­tial­ly in response to this phe­nom­e­non, busi­ness­es have returned to direct mail mar­ket­ing. And yes, direct mail mar­ket­ing can be suc­cess­ful to Gen­er­a­tion Z.

What Is Direct Mail Marketing And Why Is It Successful?

A row of rural letterboxes. Concept of direct mail marketingDirect mail mar­ket­ing is exact­ly what it sounds like: mail­ing a print­ed mar­ket­ing doc­u­ment direct­ly to poten­tial con­sumers. Direct mail mar­ket­ing involves brochures, cat­a­logs, post­cards, newslet­ters, etc. It involves actu­al paper mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als which end up in people’s mail­box­es.

There are dis­tinct advan­tages to direct mail mar­ket­ing. Busi­ness­es can pur­chase mail­ing lists from rep­utable sources who have already demon­strat­ed an inter­est in their type of busi­ness or prod­uct. Rather than the seem­ing­ly ran­dom mes­sages which are in cir­cu­la­tion in the dig­i­tal for­mat, direct mail pin­points a spe­cif­ic demo­graph­ic and tar­gets mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als for this demo­graph­ic.

Rather than gam­bling on hit­ting the mark with dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, direct mail nar­rows the focus and often pro­duces bet­ter results in terms of return on invest­ment into mar­ket­ing strate­gies.

Con­sid­er how direct mail mar­ket­ing would grab the atten­tion of a young adult. Instead of find­ing them­selves fac­ing dozens of noti­fi­ca­tions from dozens of apps, they have a sin­gle piece of mail in their hands. All their atten­tion is focused on that one piece of mail. There will be no dings, buzzes, or pop-ups when they’re look­ing at the mail. It is, per­haps, the most effec­tive way to get a person’s atten­tion.

Direct Mail Marketing For Small Businesses

Direct mail mar­ket­ing is par­tic­u­lar­ly use­ful for small busi­ness. Small busi­ness­es often lack the cap­i­tal for large dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing strate­gies. Even if they build a web­site to receive and direct inter­net traf­fic, there’s lit­tle to guar­an­tee that they will pull in the kind of dig­i­tal traf­fic required to sus­tain a suc­cess­ful mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy.

This type of indi­rect mar­ket­ing is cer­tain­ly pow­er­ful, but it involves a tremen­dous amount of data and ana­lyt­ics which may not be avail­able to small busi­ness­es.

The sim­ple, straight­for­ward process of direct mar­ket­ing is ide­al for small busi­ness­es with small bud­gets. It’s a sim­ple process for a small busi­ness to gen­er­ate a mail­ing list from their cur­rent cus­tomer base and use this for a direct mail mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy.

It’s also rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple to com­bine direct mail mar­ket­ing with email mar­ket­ing. By pro­vid­ing the same mes­sage in two dif­fer­ent for­mats, the odds of get­ting the atten­tion of the con­sumer are much high­er.

Will mar­ket­ing in 2018 involve large dig­i­tal cam­paigns? Of course. But giv­en the glut of infor­ma­tion on the inter­net, busi­ness­es will need to get cre­ative with their mar­ket­ing cam­paigns.

Understanding and Marketing To Generation Z

Gen­er­a­tion Z places an incred­i­bly high val­ue on the abil­i­ty to define their choic­es for them­selves. They want to be indi­vid­u­als. They don’t want to be defined by social con­structs, they want to cre­ate their own iden­ti­ties.

In order to mar­ket to a new gen­er­a­tion, busi­ness­es will need to pay atten­tion to the types of mar­ket­ing chan­nels they use and whether those chan­nels con­nect with the val­ues of Gen­er­a­tion Z. Remem­ber, mar­ket­ing chan­nels are only the medi­um by which the mar­ket­ing mes­sage is con­veyed. A dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing cam­paign may com­plete­ly miss the mark when it comes to under­stand­ing their audi­ence while a direct mail cam­paign may nail it on the head.

Because the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion is so inun­dat­ed with adver­tis­ing, they’ve become extreme­ly good at fil­ter­ing out most things and only pay­ing atten­tion to what mat­ters to them. For any mar­ket­ing cam­paign to suc­ceed in the com­ing years, it will need to speak direct­ly to the things that mat­ter to young peo­ple.

Mar­ket­ing cam­paigns need to be thought of as work­ing with the con­sumer rather than to the con­sumer. In oth­er words, because Gen­er­a­tion Z high­ly val­ues indi­vid­u­al­i­ty and the abil­i­ty to choose, mar­ket­ing cam­paigns need to com­mu­ni­cate that they are help­ing the con­sumer rather than telling them what to do.

Le Tote and Direct Mail Marketing

Direct mail mar­ket­ing is a long way from the old ideas of junk mail. There are numer­ous exam­ples of direct mail mar­ket­ing that meet the chal­lenges of the new con­sumers and new con­sumer prac­tices.

Le Tote, a women’s cloth­ing and acces­so­ry com­pa­ny, uses direct mail mar­ket­ing to reach cus­tomers and to suc­cinct­ly explain the fan­tas­tic ben­e­fits of their com­pa­ny. Le Tote direct­ly allows cus­tomers to pur­chase clothes in a new and unique way. The fun for their cus­tomers is that each gets a box of mix and match items which they can choose to keep or trade for oth­er items. The cus­tomers get prod­ucts and par­tic­i­pate in trad­ing and exchang­ing those prod­ucts.

This com­pa­ny uses a direct mail inte­gra­tive strat­e­gy (reg­u­lar mail, email and oth­er direct mail chan­nels) to reach their cus­tomer base. This has been extreme­ly effec­tive and suc­cess­ful because the direct mail mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy allows cus­tomers to see exact­ly what they can get and what they can do with the items in the box. Again, appeal­ing to Gen-Zers and oth­ers who want some type of per­son­al iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with their con­sumer choic­es.


Is direct mail mar­ket­ing a thing of the past? Hard­ly. In fact, as dig­i­tal adver­tis­ing con­tin­ues to crowd the online world, direct mail mar­ket­ing may actu­al­ly be the ide­al mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy of the future. With its unique abil­i­ty to grab and hold the atten­tion of cus­tomers, it offers sig­nif­i­cant advan­tages over dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing.

What is clear is that smart mar­keters will take an inte­grat­ed approach to mar­ket­ing in 2018, using every pos­si­ble mar­ket­ing chan­nel at their dis­pos­al. Direct mail mar­ket­ing isn’t going any­where any­time soon.



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