Direct mail never say die

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One of my favorite parts of overseeing the news desk at DMNews is how many controversial questions can arise for future Gloves Off contenders in our opinion section. I got an outpouring of response to the May 5 Gloves Off topic: “Is mail still effective for acquisition?” In my quest for a “no” counterpoint, I got a chorus of “yes!” responses from DMNews readers that was truly an inspiring testament to belief in this craft.

In fact, as you can read in the issue and online our “no” answer was not a quite a straightforward “no” but instead a “maybe” from Rimm-Kaufman Group’s George Mitchie who points out that a careful look at matchbacks and multichannel metrics must be done before axing any print campaigns.

One of the biggest advocates for direct mail was the Direct Marketing Association. No surprise there. President John Greco recently came to mail’s defense in response to coverage of the Forrester Research study “Direct Marketing Needs a Green Wake-Up Call” that suggested that marketers prefer ROI to conserving natural resources. He points out – and a lot of our recent coverage supports - that in choosing one, marketers often achieve the other. In other words, tighter targeting and relevant offers means only reaching buyers with mail, which cuts down on either paper (for those opting out of mailings) or gas emissions (for those shopping at home vis catalog or mail order).

There have been numerous prophecies of direct mail’s decline - always triggered by the rise of new channels (first radio, then TV, then the Internet),” said Sue Geramian, SVP of communications at the DMA. “These always proved false because the so-called prophets failed to understand the underlying economic logic of direct mail. Direct mail is even today still the only channel that combines universal reach, regular and predictable delivery, with individualized addressability.”

The general consensus from the response to my question seems to be that it comes down to responsible and measured industry practices. Direct mail provider RSVP Publications Co-CEO Lawrence Golden cautioned, “Avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Direct mail, if practiced by the right companies for the right customers, remains more than viable.”

It was thrilling to get such response to a topic even before the paper went to press. Unfortunately, we could not include all the comments in print. Please continue to send me your views on the subject as well as other industry issues at cara.wood@dmnews.com.
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