Direct Mail and Print Media: “The Reports of my Death are Greatly Exaggerated”

Direct MailI don’t know about you, but I am suffering from electronic overload.

I’m an internet junkie, but I’m beginning to think I need an intervention. Even as I type this, my aching eyes beg for relief from the brightly-lit screens in my world — from my ever-present smart phone to my e-reader to my home laptop and my desktop at the office — not to mention any television viewing I might sneak in between all these electronic communications.

A fascinating recent study shows that I am not alone in this — and suggests that everything you have read about the demise of print media and near-death of direct mail is not supported by the evidence. “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” Mark Twain once said; it seems the same may be said about print communications.  

Is Print Media Really on Life-Support?
A recent study by ICOM, a division of Epsilon Targeting, entitled Finding the Right Channel Combination: What Drives Channel Choice found that among the 4700 people surveyed, including the highly-coveted 18- to 34-year-old demographic, the vast majority preferred getting product information on nearly any topic in print.

The results were astonishing: in every category other than travel, consumers were 2 to 3 times more likely to prefer learning about product offers via direct mail and print media than online. Some examples:

  • Household services: 48% preferred print offers; 15% preferred online.
  • Charitable causes: 40% preferred print offers; 21% preferred online.
  • Food products: 66% preferred print offers; 23% preferred online.

 Who Do You REALLY Believe?

Drilling down, ICOM found that print media — direct mail brochures and flyers as well as newspapers — were among the top five most trusted sources of product information. The most trusted source of product information consisted of friends, family and experts. Company websites also ranked well, but all other forms of online media had the lowest reliability ratings, with social media – surprise! — scraping the bottom.

53% of respondents said they pay closer attention to information received by direct mail versus electronically. An overall increase in positive attitudes towards postal mail was recorded, and physical mail pieces were perceived as more convenient: they could be read at any time, carried around for reference, and passed on to others. Most interesting of all, one reason given for this preference was that respondents believed they were receiving less mail than a year ago.

What Goes Around, Comes Around

While internet marketing will always be an important channel for reaching out to customers, electronic overload may be causing consumers to return to the comfortable habits of the past. Suddenly, a leisurely examination of the day’s mail over a steaming cup of coffee is looking like a great way to unwind after a long day of reading too many emails.