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Direct mail marketing is back

27 February 2020

Email marketing isn't dead; its being re-packaged as good old fashioned snail-mail

The digital space has become so crowded marketers are looking for new ways to deliver the message.

And now, tech companies that made their fortunes via the internet are turning to old fashioned snail-mail to extend their reach.

I predicted this.

For many years, traditional mail (for you millennials, physical cardboard and paper delivered to your door via Australia Post) has been in decline.

Marketing materials delivered in the post have become novel.

Marketing old timers like me (I’ve reached the crazy eyebrow age) were around when direct marketing became a thing.

In the Mad Men days (The Sixties and Seventies), marketing communication was mostly achieved using TV, Radio and Press.

Letter boxing was also a mass media however, when computers become ubiquitous (in the Eighties) mass personalisation of mail became feasible and direct marketing became both a specialisation and then an industry.

Like every human endeavor, practitioners discovered some things worked better than others and Direct Marketing became a science. Some words and phrases produced higher response rates. Envelope sizes, colours, fonts, bolded text, paper stock - everything was tested and analyzed.

I still remember the standard time-honored phrase that would appear on all the sweep stake promotion envelopes…

“YOU MAY HAVE ALREADY WON!”

Apparently, as a means of guaranteeing the envelope got opened rather than being binned - it has never been bettered.

We learnt these stats and facts at seminars where self-styled Direct Marketing gurus toured the world and proselytised the marvels of Direct Marketing. If you weren't doing it; you were out-of-touch.

At first it was called "Direct Mail", then it was called "Direct Marketing", and then "Database Marketing."

The new technology was compiling mailing lists and setting-up printers to personalise form letters. We used techniques like “lift letters”, printed envelopes, and other tricks.

We measured response rates by counting vouchers and phone calls.

Privacy was a concern before the internet was invented

Results were fed back into the database and people who were more responsive and the types of offers they were responsive to were recorded.

After a while, huge data sets of personal information were complied about individuals; annual income estimates, number of children, marital status, purchasing history, shirt-size - anything.

Data was sold and traded, merged and purged.

Privacy concerns were raised and people became paranoid - and the internet hadn't even been invented yet.

The old joke was "I have to move again; Reader's Digest have found out my new address."

Today people worry about their online privacy; back then they delivered stuff to where you physically lived!

The typical DM campaign consisted of a 3-stage approach; first, we sent out a teaser campaign, followed a few weeks later by the main promotional mail piece and then a follow-up campaign.

Before long, Database Marketing became a crowded space; these days we get annoyed by our e-mail being overloaded...

Before the internet - we used to open the mail standing over a waste paper basket there was so much of the damn stuff.




So the happy days of physical Direct Mail have long faded, replaced by digital marketing. A minute on your computer doesn't go by before you are bombarded or infiltrated by a marketing message.

We are now being tracked and profiled through our digital devices and served promotional messages based on our browser history, credit card purchases, the search terms we use, and our social media content. Newspaper digital editions feed customised news based on our previous click behaviors and we are even being location tracked and digital screens in shopping malls deliver customised ad content as we walk by based on our retail journeys.


But, now we have MailChimp promoting snail mail campaigns – what?



Mailchimp is the classic manifestation of marketing in the digital age.

Along with Campaign Monitor, these are the most well used e-mail marketing (or EDM to use the jargon) platforms, providing not just authoring and delivery, but also with API's to integrate with other SaaS marketing tools enabling building full-featured marketing automation systems.

So successful, they've played a part in killing themselves off - not so much "death by email" as suicide.

So, any wonder they are looking for life after e-mail; by resurrecting the past.

And I am wondering if this won't be the only old-school technique that gets recycled in the quest to cut through and reach potential customers.

With the proliferation of marketing and sales automation, we may also see the rise of the sales person as becoming the most effective way of developing new customers.

As I said earlier "I predicted this"...

Read more here B2B or not 2B? That is the question.

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