by Dean Rieck
Ah, the good old days.
Just a few years ago, I could count on receiving a mailbox-full of direct mail nearly every day, including the crown jewel of direct marketing, the BIG direct mail piece.
Thick #10′s, fat 6×9′s, and beefy 9×12′s once stood atop the mountain of attention-grabbing communication.
But then came hard days for the publishing industry, higher postal and printing costs, the rise of electronic media, and a faltering economy that dried up the stream of direct mail.
Today, the mail delivers anemic postcards, cheap fliers, and the occasional #10 envelope with a short letter inside. And it's made many wonder if direct mail has gone the way of the dinosaur.
Industry pundits have been sounding the death knell for direct mail. Though, those pundits have generally been young and directly involved with social media, email, and other electronic media. They've had no love for, or experience with, traditional media and shed no tears for its assumed extinction.
But as I've been saying for some time, the reports of direct mail's demise are greatly exaggerated.
Despite all the new media opportunities, people are beginning to realize that Twitter, Facebook, email, blogs, and other innovations are not delivering the stunning results promised. In fact, many are now waking up from their dream of a paperless marketing world and asking, "Where are the sales?"
What people are discovering is that traditional media, including direct mail, still work. That includes the big direct mail piece.
I'll admit that it may be hard to justify mailing big in today's economy when, often, sales aren't there regardless of the medium. But I'm starting to see more and more big direct mail pieces.
I've received a thick #10 envelope package from Planner Pads, a 36-page magalog from Jerry Baker, an 8.5×11 poly-wrap from Highlights for Children, and a traditional donor package from Smile Train. Plus I'm seeing a significant increase in larger credit card and financial mailings.
Compared to a few years ago, it's just a trickle. But the big packages seem to be making a comeback. And I know why:
Lower volume means less competition in the mailbox, which often translates to higher response.
A mail stream full of dinky formats makes larger formats stand out.
Larger formats provide more real estate for copy, the driver in any direct mail campaign.
The tsunami of electronic communications overwhelms people. By contrast, a direct mail piece allows people to relax and focus on one idea for a few minutes.
After years of sparse mail, those big packages seem novel now. They let you zig while everyone else zags.
I'm not down on all the new media. But I have a large client base and I've talked to many of them about their marketing. They're not saying they're switching to new media. They're just saying they're holding tight for the time being.
So as the economy recovers from its coma, all those pent up dollars are not going to fly into electronic media. My bet is, they're going back into traditional, proven media, such as direct mail.
And today's trickle of big packages will turn into a wave of longer letters, bigger brochures, and larger formats. Why? Because it works.
Is it time for you to test a big direct mail piece?
Dean Rieck is a copywriter and consultant of choice for many of today's direct marketing leaders. He is the president of Direct Creative, a full-service direct marketing creative firm based in Westerville, Ohio.
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