Direct Mail - Why It Still Matters | Hannington Tame
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Marketing Life Cycles 2: The Premature Announcements of the Death of Direct Mail

As headhunters of ecommerce leadership talent, Hannington Tame share marketing’s current focus on all things digital – but do more traditional marketing methods such as the mail order catalogue have anything left to offer? 

The History of Mail Order

If the thought of mail catalogue marketing sends you to sleep then you need to snuggle your mental ennui into a Euklisia Rug. A forerunner of the modern sleeping bag, this was developed by an enterprising Welshman who rejoiced in the wonderful name of Sir Pryce Pryce-Jones.

Sir PPJ took advantage of two new technologies in the mid-19th century to expand a small welsh flannel business into an global supplier with customers as diverse as Queen Victoria, Florence Nightingale and the Russian army.

Using the newly developed symbiotic technologies of efficient rail and postal services, Pryce invented the first mail order catalogue and went on to become a millionaire. The list of success stories launched by this old technology is legendary – Littlewoods, Sears and Roebuck, and in more recent times Boden, Land’s End, LLBean and many a seller of men’s shirts.

Mail Order Catalogues vs Online Ecommerce Stores

Are catalogues still relevant in the digital age? Well perhaps direct mail isn’t as analogue as everyone seems to think. Firstly, it has very close ties to digital. Direct marketing is in many ways the grandfather of many digital marketing and eCommerce strategies and tactics. A catalogue is (like a website) selling you something that you cannot immediately touch and which will be delivered to you sometime in the future. Huge mailing lists required huge databases. Databases allowed customer segmentation; many of the most experienced CRM specialists in the workplace today cut their teeth in the world of Direct Marketing.

Secondly, catalogue marketing was easily measurable, leading the way in attribution and ROI techniques that are directly comparable to digital marketing unlike the more ethereal results of broadcast advertising.

Recently Shop Direct announced the end of its catalogue in the wake of their digital transformation and 90% of sales coming online. However, not all brands need their catalogues and DM to directly translate into sales; they are a marketing channel, getting products in front of the consumers like billboards.

The Future of the Paper Catalogue

There are two elements that ensure catalogues will still be coming through your letterbox for the foreseeable future. The first is competition for a customer’s attention. With so much effort focused on new digital technologies it has became more powerful to market where the crowd isn’t – on your customers’ doormat.

The second is that more powerful computing power and better attribution techniques allow a drastic reduction of the wastage of previous catalogues prints. Shop Direct has managed to reduce its print run by 90% and clothes retailers that we have spoken to have reported similar results. The interesting point is that with the right customers being targeted this now becomes a highly focused marketing tool for the right customers.

The psychological stats speak volumes too. Mail has a more powerful effect on long-term memory encoding than any other media – 32% higher than email and 72% higher than TV. 80% of consumers remember direct mail from the last 4 week period, while 60% say that direct mail keeps brands at the top of their mind.

Next’s development of its directory, as a hardback ‘event’ of a catalogue, is an example of this. The catalogue adds to Next’s customer experience, making the catalogue a product to sit down with in itself, rather than just junk. Meanwhile, Avon’s continued success mixing catalogue with online shopping is proof the formula can work.

Direct mail must be an important strand of any omni-channel marketing strategy. It often already is, on the quiet. ‘Spray and see’ strategy with minimal conversion is out but highly developed techniques which remove the “junk” element of mail-outs has allowed this channel to live on. And with ever more development in personalisation the opportunities within this channel are growing, not shrinking.

So hopefully the good news is that you will be pleased by what comes through your mailbox in the near future….

Click here to read Marketing Life Cycles 1 on TV advertising.

Looking for the very best senior marketing talent? Hannington Tame, the digital leadership headhunters, can help – contact us today.

James Minter

James Minter is a partner at Hannington Tame, the digital CEO and C-Suite headhunting specialist.

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