Does Direct Mail Need a Defibrillator?

By | April 4, 2011

Julie Sullivan marketing VP Wilde“Is direct mail dead?”

This is one of the most common questions we receive from our clients. Everyone has their perspective on this lively debate; but since numbers don’t have opinions, I thought I’d share some that were recently published in the Winterberry Group’s Outlook 2011: What to Expect in Digital and Direct Marketing.

  • Marketers spent $114.6 billion on traditional media in 2010, compared to $154.4 billion for direct and digital advertising. Traditional ad spending is seen as dropped to $112.6 billion in 2011, but direct and digital expenditures will rise to $163.9 billion.
  • Within the US, many traditional mediums (such as radio, magazines, outdoor advertising and newspapers) declined.
  • Digital spending realized the biggest jump–8.5%–winding up at $27.7 billion.
  • In 2010, marketers bumped up their direct mail spending, which increased by 3.1% to $45.2 billion.
  • Direct and digital channels are making gains with overall spending on these channels is expected to rise by 6.2%, racking up to $163.9 billion in expenditures.
  • In 2011, direct mail will grow by a healthy 5.8% to $47.8 billion in part due to financial services, retail and automotive marketers returning to the fray and the lack of emergency postage rate increase, according to Bruce Biegel, Managing Director at Winterberry Group.
  • Among other channels, direct response broadcasting is anticipated to jump by 7.6% to $25.4 billion. Digital spending will show the largest growth–14% to $31.6 billion.
  • When marketing budgets expanding, however, digital mediums are claiming most of the increases. Email, search and mobile marketing led the pack when Winterberry asked marketers which channels were capturing new spending.
  • Email has staked a claim as the hub of integrated marketing efforts, Biegel says. During 2011, spending on this channel will jump 18.1% to $1.6 billion.
  • Search offers the most predictable ROI; revenue generated from it is most closely related to expenditures. Local search options are drawing in small- and medium-sized business’ budgets. As such, search spending will increase by 13% to $17.6 billion.
  • Spending on social media, still a nascent channel, will jump to 35.4% to $1.6 billion.

Clearly, direct mail is not in need of a defibrillator. In fact, when done well and part of a multi-channel campaign, direct mail can achieve impressive results. As Biegel points out, “[Direct mail] is not cool, but it works, which is why it came back.”

So next time you’re in a debate about the fate of direct mail, lead with the facts instead of jumping on the latest marketing bandwagon. And remember, your best bet is a combination of channels that are done well.

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7 thoughts on “Does Direct Mail Need a Defibrillator?

  1. David Williams

    These are interesting and positive numbers that indicate that digital printing has an important role to play in the marketing mix. They also point out the need for understanding how print fits into a multi-channel marketing program and being able to assist customers in developing a marketing program.

  2. Julie

    Agree David. I think that marketers should better understand the benefits of digital print. With today’s customers demanding relevance and personalization, digital print certainly fits the bill to bring these meaningful conversations with your customers to life.

  3. Earl Howell

    Over the last couple of days, the winds of change are beginning to get turbulent.

    With the lastest Epsilon e-mail security breach incident, you may see consumers electing to return to direct mail as their preferred communication medium (it’s safer)!

  4. Tony Revell

    There are some encouraging numbers here. The critical rquirement for DM remains – we need to continually find ways to add more value to the mail pack if DM it is to grow.

    There is some very good colour print and advance composition technologies around to execute highly relevant and personalised mail but this is only part of the challenge for printers and mailhouses.

    We also need to find producive ways to engage designers, marketers, agencies and DM strategists to offer end to end solutions as part of the added value sell. Tony Revell, Integrated Mailing Services, Melbourne Australia

  5. Ed

    Can someone breakout the D&D channel contributions?
    I see $45B and $27B and $31B, but doesn’t add up to $154B…
    Thanks.

  6. John Dowd

    Julie,
    Does Winterberry (or anyone else) have numbers on direct mail revenues from offset printing vs from digital presses? I have a hunch the former is contracting and the latter booming, but it would be interesting to see the precise data.

  7. Chad

    I understand why someone would be in denial of the current shift in advertising, but rather than claim direct mail is safer and customers will flock back, position yourself into areas that will embrace the (total) shift to digital communications. Print media is dead, a defibrillator won’t help.

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