Facebook and the Truth about Direct Mail

By Donna DeLeo, ETMG Independent Designer and Art Director

Did you know that direct mail was the number one planned marketing channel for 2012? 1Facebook, the largest social media company is using direct mail

I didn’t. In fact, as a designer I’ve been hearing for years that print was dead. But that was before I attended the annual HOW Design Live Conference in San Francisco. During a session about getting a better response to direct mail, sponsored by Sappi Papers, the speaker showed us a direct mail campaign Facebook is sending out targeting CEOs from Fortune 500 companies.

If the largest online social network company uses direct mail as a means to market themselves, then maybe print isn’t really dead.

Here’s another astonishing statistic: for the all-important 18-34 year old demographic, direct mail is the most “trusted” choice of brand communications in many industries.2 The digital generation is actually telling us that they have more faith in an offer they receive in the mail over other media channels — including the internet. This key demographic underscores the importance of avoiding assumptions made about the viability of print in marketing.

If you’ve been contemplating a direct mail campaign, it’s worth considering these five key advantages it has over other marketing channels:

thumbs up for direct mail

It’s private.
It’s actually a federal offense to open someone else’s mail. Hence mail provides an offer of exclusivity to the recipient—and as a result, is perceived to hold more value.

It’s reliable.
Fortunately the postal service has NO spam filter.

It’s guaranteed.
You’re guaranteed 5-7 seconds of the recipient’s focus when sorting through his or her mail. On average, that time jumps to 2-3 minutes when using trans-promo mail (marketing content that has been integrated with a bill or invoice on unused white space.)

It’s tech-savvy.
By leveraging today’s technology—using QR codes, PURLs, and GURLs —you can closely track your campaign while it’s in progress and make necessary refinements along the way.

It’s tangible.
Paper is sensory and tactile. And for humans, it’s easier to have an emotional connection with something if we have a kinetic reaction to it.

What goes into an effective direct mail campaign? Any effective campaign follows a three-step process of strategy, format, and analysis.

First, define your strategy.
Is it a long-term strategy to build your brand or a short-term goal where your company wants to experience a brief hike in sales for a limited time? The answer will help determined the correct message, offer and audience to target.

Second, choose your format.
Do you need to include detailed product descriptions along with photos? If so, a catalog rather than a post card may be more appropriate. Formatting styles are abundant but the end result should always fit the business objectives.

Third, determined how you will know it is successful.
Exactly how did the campaign do in terms of overall costs and net sales? Knowing these numbers will help quantify the value of the campaign to your organization.

In today’s information rich multi-channel marketplace, direct mail is far from obsolete. Rather this old school familiarity when combined with current technology is even more powerful and versatile than in the past. And, when pooled with the next big innovation—computing Big Data—the life of direct mail should extend long into the future.



(1) Client Marketing and Transactional Document Survey, SourceLink 2012.

(2) 2011 Channel Preference Study: The Formula for Success: Preference and Trust, Epilson Target, 2011..

Further Reading:


Print Possibilities: No So Square Anymore

Is Digital Printing As Good As Offset Printing?

One thought on “Facebook and the Truth about Direct Mail

  1. Great blog post for marketers.

    I had no idea that direct mail continues to have such impact, and surprisingly to me, with the 18-34 demographic.

    The key advantage mentioned that strikes me most is that direct mail is reliable in that there is no spam filter. Instead of wasting budget on trying to get around spam filters, with direct mail we can focus on good design and call to actions.

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