5 Reasons Direct Mail Isn’t Dead

Direct mail. The words conjure up piles of gaudy coloured leaflets, usually advertising your local pizza joint, shoved unceremoniously through your front door. It’s the kind of mail that’s met with a grumble, ignored for a week, and then thrown into the recycling during a sudden spring cleaning moment. 

This raises the question, why would you want to contribute to more of that? On top of that, why would you want to associate your business with it? 

Well, simply put, because direct mail works.

The human reaction

While we’re becoming a more digitally integrated society, at our core, we’re still run by human instincts. A great email campaign can be memorable and help connect an audience to a brand, but there’s nothing quite like that tangible response of holding an ad in your hand. While this might sound emotive veering on pretentious – we are still talking about direct mail after all – there’s no ignoring the power of sight, touch and even smell when experiencing something. 

In fact, a study conducted by the Royal Mail in 2015 found that people feel 24% more highly towards something they can see and touch over something they can just see. They also found that 60% of consumers remembered mail advertising more strongly than other media, as it ‘activates areas of the brain responsible for long-term memory encodingand has a lasting effect that means recall will be more readily triggered later on’. 


This discovery is cemented when you look at the overall response rate of direct mail. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) found that direct mail produces a 4.4% response rate, compared to email’s response rate of 0.12%.

So, despite occasionally being overwhelmed by the paper put through their letterboxes, on the whole, people like receiving mail, and this has a direct effect on sales and response. 

The danger of social media overload

With people spending an average of 2 hours 22 minutes a day on social networks, users are used to scrolling through a sea of ads. This saturation means they’re likely to come across a whole range of marketing material, including spam and low-quality content.  

The more negative experiences associated with social ads, the less likely a consumer is to trust them. If you don’t have the budget to essentially buy an audiences’ vision of social media, then even if you create a great ad it might not get the interaction it deserved. 

On top of this, more and more people are interested in creating a private media presence – and companies are listening. Despite making around 99% of its revenue from advertisements, Facebook’s new Clear History privacy feature will improve the security of user data, adding a potential spanner in the works to any target ad planning. 

They explained in a recent blog post, ‘When someone disconnects their off-Facebook activity, we won’t use the data they clear for targeting…Businesses should keep this in mind when developing strategies for these kinds of campaigns in the second half of the year and beyond.’

This isn’t to say we should tear up our carefully crafted strategies and announce social media as just a distant memory. It’s simply that it’s worth having other forms of marketing to play with. 

Hand in hand with digital

The most effective direct mail campaigns are the ones that incorporate digital elements into them. Eye-catching visuals will draw in an audience, but the overall structure doesn’t have to be complex. A simple online discount code or even a link to the website and social media can benefit the ROI. Of course, with the right idea and budget, you can create something truly innovative. 

Companies such as IKEA have pushed the boundaries of what direct mail can be. One of their most memorable campaigns was the IKEA Play app, which rolled out in 2014. It involved printing QR codes onto their catalogue, which, when paired with the accompanying app, showed customers a 3D product overlay on their screen. Think Pokemon Go, but with furniture. Anyone could see what a new shelf or sofa would look like in their home without expensive and time-consuming trial and error. While the app has now evolved and can be used without QR codes, the original idea was an intuitive way to engage a wide target audience. 

Not only does this kind of campaign take the customer out of the role of a passive viewer, but it shows the creative mindset behind the company itself. 


Of course, budget, legal and even social limitations can put a dampener on the creative output. 

Yet there’s still a way to diversify marketing material in a simple but effective way. As you would expect from marketing focused around physical addresses, geo-targeting is a strong benefit of direct mail. Tailoring content to specific postcodes both nationally and internationally can create a more memorable campaign and give a personalised edge that’s popular with consumers. 

Got your addresses?

So direct mail – not as bad as it’s been portrayed, and in fact significantly beneficial to a marketing campaign. While it’s a somewhat old-school tactic, it still has a place in the modern world, and with a little ingenuity, it can work beautifully alongside other forms of marketing.