Is Direct Mail Next to Go into Decline?

The woes of mass media advertising have been well documented. Newspapers, in particular, are scrambling to remain viable to advertisers. Television is facing similar challenges, although to a lesser extent. Now, a third medium could be joining the list: direct mail. Love it or hate it, direct mail has enjoyed a run of 60 years of annual growth in overall spending. That run came to an end in 2008, as a study from the Winterberry Group reports a 3% drop in direct mail spending last year. Furthermore, direct mail spending is predicted to fall another 8% to 9% in 2009.

A series of events have aligned to create a perfect storm for the direct mail industry. First, consumers who are tired of unwanted mail solicitations can minimize them more easily through the Direct Marketing Association's DMAchoice program. Second, a weak economy has led marketers to pull back on spending, and the relatively high cost of conducting direct mail campaigns make them a target for reduction. Third, at the same time marketers are spending less on direct mail, they are utilizing e-mail marketing more, especially when targeting customers with whom they have existing relationships (and permission to contact via e-mail). Fourth, electronic communications like e-mail are environmentally friendly instead of using natural resources to make envelopes, brochures, and sales letters.

Direct mail will not disappear from our mailboxes altogether anytime soon. But, the era of constant growth in direct mail marketing appears to be over. The capabilities of direct mail to precisely target an audience and measure its effectiveness make it a very useful tool in the IMC toolkit. But, with the emergence of e-mail and search engine advertising as ways to cost effectively reach specific audiences and measure campaign effectiveness, direct mail's role in marketing programs will likely not be quite as prominent going forward.

Link: eMarketer - "Direct Mail Drop"