Print is DEAD!

Yeah that's what I said! Or is it? Well don't believe everything you read (except now). In the last 10 years, direct mail has gone from a $40 billion dollar advertising spend in 1998, to a $56.7 billion dollar advertising spend in 2008… an increase of just over 41%.[1] And while direct mail spending has begun to decline in this recession (the first such decline in over 60 years…along with declines in TV, newspaper, cable, radio and internet ad revenue), print fulfillment mail continues to generate one of the highest response rates amongst other major media. Telephone generates the highest response rate (8.55%), followed by Direct Response Television (8.14%) followed by mail (3.4%). And in most cases, telephone response rates reflect follow-up to direct mail campaigns.[2]


In addition, 71% of U.S. consumers actually respond to direct mail and 69% of consumers have expressed that Direct Mail is their preferred method of contact (versus 28% email and 3% telemarketing.)[3] 17% of the U.S. population orders merchandise or services via the mail and these consumers spend $528 billion annually in response to direct mail.[4] On average, every dollar spent on direct mail brings $11 in sales.[5]

The output of US bulk printing manufacturing is forecast to grow at an annual compounded rate of 2 percent between 2009 and 2014. The printing industry was among 11 of 18 US manufacturing sectors that saw month-over-month growth in August 2009. Major advancements in technology (namely digital presses used for personalized direct mail) have dramatically contributed to industry consolidation. And while that isn't good news for the small, family-run printer, it has paved the way for faster production, smaller order quantities with more color, full service fulfillment and a more appealing cost structure.

It’s amazes me how many people are still searching for the "magic" solution. Probably because it IS possible even in this economy. We all know there are no fairies and pixy dust, but when the perfect combination of great direct mail design, attention-grabbing messaging, a client willing to bend the rules and stick their neck out a bit and perfect timing is achieved, magical things CAN happen. But the reality is that those magical combinations just don't come around too often. (On a side note, I’m thinking about the Marlboro Man, "Tastes Great...Less Filling", "Just Do It", Apples "1984", "Where's the Beef?"… I could go on.)


The bottom line is that it isn’t so much about which distribution channel is better than another (they each have their strengths and weaknesses). The best integrated marketing communications plan is constructed as a multi-media approach with each medium acting as a support mechanism for the other educating your best prospects through the lead generation and sales cycle—and eventually turning them into customers.

As the batch-blast era of direct mail moves toward a more targeted, strategic solution, a healthy mix and balanced attack to reach your targeted audience is simply the best approach. Cost-per-contact varies tremendously amongst the 10 or so major media options. And while direct mail certainly costs more, its revenue-per-contact still make it one of the most effective marketing tools for your buck!

[1] The Winterberry Group

[2] USPS Media Choices Today: What’s Getting Through

[3] InfoTrends/CAP Ventures

[4] USPS and DMA statistics

[5] Xerox Designing for Digital

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