Marketers sound off: Direct mail continues to make an impact in marketing mix

The media firm MagnaGlobal has projected that by 2013, ad revenue from online direct marketing will for the first time surpass direct mail. With more marketers and consumers embracing digital channels, how can direct mail hold its own as an effective marketing medium?

Vince Ferraro
Worldwide VP of marketing, Eastman Kodak Co.

“I think MagnaGlobal’s estimates are correct. The future is still bright for direct mail albeit as part of a multichannel marketing and advertising strategy. Where at one time direct mail was really the only customizable direct-response option, it is now an integral (and still relevant) part of the multichannel marketing mix.

The challenge to direct marketers is the increasing complexity of the demographics. Using the U.S. as an example, there is no longer an average American. We are now a multi-segment and multigenerational society. Much of the change in demographics has been driven by immigration. The Hispanic population is growing at a much faster rate than other ethnic groups. How will we as marketers address their specific needs? The proliferation of cellular phones, tablets and PCs is also contributing to the rise of digital channels, new advertising and direct mail platforms. How else would you receive the message?

While electronic pages are growing faster, paper will continue to exist in the future as it has for thousands of years. What changes then? Developments in digital printing capabilities allow for much more customization and micro segmentation of marketing messages. Component heads bolted on offset presses extend the life of those static presses that create digital workhorses. New high-speed digital ink presses provide the ability to do unique, one-of-a-kind documents for customers that are more relevant and, therefore, should garner better response rates and higher return on marketing investment.

Also, direct mail is getting more sophisticated as you see the inclusion of personalized URLs, barcodes and quick response codes that ensure seamless integration of the “P” world (paper) with the “E” world (electronic).

Finally, paper-based direct mail will always have a niche with respect to specialty products. You cannot integrate raised (dimensional) printing, scents or specialty folds in a pure online environment — at least not yet!”

Lynn Gore
VP of marketing, Plow & Hearth

“Direct mail will continue to be a component of the marketing mix, but mailers must maximize the overall contact plan per customer, not just the return on each individual catalog or email. For many catalogers, the percentage of catalog-driven demand is still significant, regardless of the channel through which the sale occurs. It is important to quantify catalog-driven demand and evaluate it as part of the total cost. Then, determining the optimal mix of contact types, whether print, email or other contact, will allow direct mail to continue as part of the productive marketing mix.”

Arun Sinha
Global chief marketing and communications officer, Zurich Financial Services Group

“The digital medium will surpass direct mail given the evolving consumer media channel preference. At the same time, there is lot of innovation in online direct marketing that is making it easier for the marketers to assess the response rates and return on investment. Online direct marketing is faster, cheaper (currently) and easily accessible to consumers with greater reach.

I think direct mail is at a point where it needs to reexamine itself. One area where direct mail can still thrive is in the premium category or catalogs. Consumers still like to touch and feel something of greater value.

It is not online direct marketing or direct mail, but all of these approaches will be complementary to each other. Marketers will be looking at leveraging multiple tools for greater return.”

Adam Leavitt
VP of marketing, Trafalgar

“We do get a better response from print. It’s more expensive, so we can afford to do more on the electronic side where we get above average open and click rates. Depending on the strength of the message and offer, those can spike. If you boil it down to sheer return on investment, we tend to do better on the print side.”

Barbara Basney
VP of global advertising, Xerox Corp.

“Direct mail is uniquely positioned to deliver a message with visceral impact that cannot be achieved with digital direct marketing. It can be more disruptive and cut through the clutter in a way that is impossible for even the best designed digital email. We all suffer from email overload, and the tendency to hit delete is almost an involuntary response to the deluge of unsolicited emails that hit our inbox. So, this uniquely positions direct mail to provide unique, unexpected and enhanced communication engagement and effectiveness.”

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