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Direct Mail Growing in Popularity Among Young People?

July 22, 2013

According to survey results published in the Direct Marketing Association’s 2011 Statistical Fact Book, 18 percent of young people between the ages of 22 and 24 say they will respond to direct mail. That’s up from numbers published last year.

How could this be? Direct mail is often seen as an old (and not so sexy) marketing channel. Why are direct mail postcards, catalogs, and other mailed print formats increasing in popularity—especially among young people—when activity on digital, mobile and social media platforms are thriving?

They don’t want their friends to know their really, really personal business.

Last year, a study conducted by ICOM, a division of Epsilon Targeting, found that a lot of people between the ages of 18 and 34 preferred to receive certain marketing communications via direct mail rather than through online media. An overwhelming percentage of those surveyed wanted messages relating to personal care, food or cleaning products, medicine, and sensitive health products to be delivered via direct mail.

I think that people recognize the fact that most things posted online, or exchanged via email, are not necessarily private. Even if profiles are restricted and passwords are strong, there’s a chance that someone or something can potentially gain access to personal details and preferences. Sure, this can happen with direct mail too. But online, if sensitive personal information is exposed, the audience that could have access to it is potentially much larger (and content is searchable online).

Better targeting and deeper, more relevant personalization

Gone are the days where marketers can get away with distributing mass mail featuring generalized messages. Consumers today demand personalization and, above all, relevancy. Past surveys by organizations like the Winterberry Group, Prospectiv, and the DMA highlight that the top factors in driving response rates included timing, relevance and personalization of marketing message.

Database marketing techniques and advancements in variable data printing technology is making it easier, more effective and more affordable than ever to include personalized data on direct mail pieces—and, I’m not talking about simply addressing the recipient by name or overprinting snippets of personalized information on pre–printed postcards. Each element within a direct marketing campaign can be personalized with information such as an individual’s recent purchase activity, special offers that relate to their product/service preferences, directions from their driveway to the nearest store location, etc—making the experience unique and relevant for each recipient.

Integration of digital technologies and mobile response channels on direct mail

Direct mail is no longer a static channel. The integration of digital and mobile technologies like QR codes, SMS texting, and PURLs now make direct mail postcards, flyers, and other print formats interactive.

These digital technologies also provide instant access to additional information or make it easy for audiences to share content with peers. Research conducted to uncover common traits of the different generations (i.e. Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millenials, etc.) discovered that younger generations wanted a plethora of information at their disposal without having to jump through hoops. They want information accessible across multiple platforms and devices; using technology to strategically integrate digital and traditional channels makes this a manageable reality.

What other factors are encouraging young people to give direct mail some attention? What have you seen work lately?