The DM Train to Engagement Land

Personally, I delete about 95% of the marketing emails I get. After a day or two of neglecting my inbox, it looks like an episode of A&E’s Hoarders. I’m on so many email lists—everything from the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (for some reason) to Crate and Barrel—it’s virtually impossible to keep on top of it all.

Chris Rimlinger, SVP of Money Mailer, has a similar relationship with her inbox.

“Sometimes I clear out my email like it’s a chore,” she says. “I don’t even open a third of them—it’s just click, click, click, delete, delete, delete.”

Email fatigue, and digital fatigue in general, is part of what’s causing some millennials to gravitate towards more traditional forms of media. Digital natives taking a trip on the DM train to Engagement Land.

In fact, among the millennial audience, more than 50% get print deals from newspapers, while 33% look to DM pieces for information on offers.

I can vouch for this phenomenon. (What? Hey, some commentators say the millennial generation includes people born in the early 1980s. Shut up.)

But the trend is more pronounced among members of Gen Y. They basically had Wi-Fi in the womb, their smartphones are indispensable to them—and they like getting things delivered to them in a physical mailbox.

According to a new study from Research Now, teens and twentysomethings are twice as likely to say they were introduced by an offline ad to a product they later bought. Research conducted by Money Mailer found something similar: 90% of 25- to 34-year-olds say they think direct mail is reliable, while 87% say they like getting information and offers from retailers in the mail.

There’s also a certain nostalgia aspect to the whole thing…even though some of the people harboring these nostalgic feelings weren’t born during the eras they’re emulating. (Ahem, the 1980s.)

“This is the first generation to grow up with everything electronic and we’re seeing a trend of them being attracted to making things with their hands, to arts and crafts, to records and retro type hobbies,” says Rimlinger, who jokes she actually remembers getting an LP of Duran Duran’s Rio when it was new for her fourteenth birthday.

There’s a lot of digital clutter out there, and savvy marketers shouldn’t discount the power of a clutter-cutting DM piece—so long as it’s relevant to the audience and integrated with digital channels. Yes, millennials like mail, but nothing will turn them off quicker than the inability to get more information online.

Direct mail used in conjunction with other relevant channels—email, display, social—is a potent ingredient in any marketing mix. There’s a sense of delight you get when opening an envelope or a package that’s hard to create via email.

“But you also need to keep in mind that these folks still have their phones,” says Rimlinger. “They’re dressed in 80s gear but they’re never without their iPhone.”

GAP, for example, does a nice job of integrating print and online channels. The brand regularly sends handsome DM pieces to a customer’s home with deals and offers, followed by relevant and complementary email reminders. A one-two punch, if you will.

“This age group actually really trusts what they receive in the mail because they like something tangible and something tailored to them,” says Rimlinger. “It’s great news for us—and direct marketers that don’t send targeted direct mail messages are definitely missing out.”

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