Client Services Director, Zoë, explains why direct marketing is far from dead.

The mention of direct marketing has the ability to elicit groans from clients – of frustration at the perceived lack of creativity and exasperation that this method of marketing still needs to be considered as part of the marketing mix. We beg to differ: direct marketing is far from dead and, while it may be an ‘old fashioned’ channel of communication, the creative execution can be highly innovative and highly memorable, whether the communication is from a business to a consumer (B2C) or a business to another business (B2B).

While it should not be approached in isolation we advocate the use of direct marketing in combination with another marketing channel, for example email or social media. According to the Data and Marketing Association, research shows that using more than one channel of marketing together increases effectiveness by on average 24%.

Direct marketing can be an effective way of targeting both B2B and B2C audiences, which are otherwise hard to reach, with carefully designed and thoughtfully produced marketing collateral. What’s more, a piece of direct mail is more likely to be kept for a longer period of time than an email. I’m not talking about the ‘spam’ post we’re all familiar with – this will go straight into the recycling; I’m talking about carefully designed and considered communications, which have a clear objective and call to action.

Research conducted by Royal Mail in 2017 reveals that 70% of respondents say that mail makes them feel more valued (up from 57% in 2013) – and 70% say that mail gives those who receive it a better impression of the organisation (up from 55% in 2013). The validity of direct marketing has remained a discussion point over the past couple of decades, as well as how individuals respond to the stimuli. The Centre for Experimental Consumer Psychology at Bangor University and global advertising research firm, Millward Brown, wanted to better understand how the brain processes physical marketing materials (such as direct mail) compared to digital materials. The research shows that the ‘real’ experience that physical media provides makes it more readily remembered; it generates more emotion, helps to develop more positive brand associations, has a more personal effect and aids motivation.

Last year we wanted to communicate with our business contacts about our expanding design department, which now offers significant expertise in creative branding. What better way to do this, we thought, than creating a beautifully presented piece of direct marketing, showcasing the very thing we were promoting – creative design. This was not an overnight process – we spoke to suppliers, crafted compelling copy, sourced costs, weighed up the pros and cons and created a targeted list of contacts. The result was an eye-catching and personalised box which included a booklet about our design capabilities and a branded portable phone charger.

As mentioned above, direct marketing campaigns are most effective when supplemented by another marketing channel. So, we followed up our direct mail piece with a tailored email – mirroring the design of the physical piece and using consistent messaging. The feedback we received from our contacts was overwhelmingly positive – our careful consideration to what we were sending hit the right note as being something useful (as opposed to yet another USB or desk calendar), which will undoubtedly remain on desks, in briefcases and handbags. Without relying solely on email marketing (where the email will more than likely not be shared), the resulting physical piece of direct marketing is something that others will notice and comment on – ensuring the longevity of the campaign.

Ours is a conscious business and so we are always mindful of our carbon footprint but businesses should not be put off direct marketing for fear of impact on the environment. By using responsibly sourced materials – print and packaging, and researching the best postage options, businesses can take comfort in the fact that the impact on the environment of direct marketing can be minimal.

Two Sides is an innovative initiative, created in 2008 by members from the graphic communications supply chain with the goal of promoting sustainability and dispelling common environmental misconceptions about print. The website dispels myths and provides facts about such things as paper production and digital being the preferred means of communication – a helpful resource to convert the naysayers. In 2017, the organisation commissioned an international survey of over 10,700 consumers which revealed that “consumers trust, enjoy and gain a deeper understanding of information read in print.”

Things to consider before embarking on a direct marketing journey…

  • Be targeted – don’t waste time, money and effort contacting people who are no longer at the company or living at the address. Invest in cleaning data and ensure that the direct marketing campaign will be relevant to the recipient
  • Be clear – what response are you looking for? Ensure there is a clear call to action
  • Be trackable – reporting on the effectiveness of a campaign is standard procedure so ensure measures are put in place to track the success of a campaign
  • Be memorable – some innovative marketers are testing the boundaries by incorporating sensory elements to direct mail – touch, sound, smell are not to be (pardon the pun) sniffed at when considering the format
  • Be integrated – always consider how direct marketing will integrate with other marketing/communications channels


Traditional print and evolving digital communications can co-exist harmoniously. Like many things – The Beatles, Shakespeare, the prawn cocktail and denim jeans – direct marketing has stood the test of time and is here to stay but to ensure a successful campaign organisations and marketers need to give it the due consideration it deserves.

Giving, receiving and handling tangible objects remain deep and intuitive parts of the human experience.Royal Mail

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