10 tips for stand-out direct mail

Get the best from print in your direct mail campaign

Personalised Elemental direct mail

Print is back and better than ever

Driven by rising consumer demand for personalised customer experiences1 and pressure to demonstrate a return on every cent invested in marketing, campaigns have become increasingly centred around digital platforms over the past 20 years.

This has resulted in many brands making excessive use of digital platforms. As a result, many consumers feel overwhelmed by messages, turning on ad blockers2, applying spam filters and even completely disengaging from brands.

In an era of digital overload, digital marketing fatigue and growing distrust of digital channels, growing numbers of marketers are turning to print to rebuild consumer trust and stimulate more focused engagement. Printed direct mail in particular has an increasingly positive emotional impact on consumers – 70% report that mail makes them feel more valued, up from 57% in 20133.

Some marketers are unaccustomed to integrating printed direct mail into multi-channel campaigns. That's why we've identified 10 tips to help marketers make the most of the channel, regardless of whether or not they’ve previously worked with print. Read on to find out more.

1. eMarketer. 23 February 2017. Most Marketers Worldwide Have Personalization Strategies in Place.
2. PageFair. February 2017. The state of the blocked web: 2017 Global Adblock Report.
3. Royal Mail MarketReach. August 2017. The Value of Mail in Uncertain Times.

Top down designer drafting work at table

10 top tips...

1. Don’t personalise, individualise

Personalisation in direct mail used to mean overprinting pre-produced mailers with recipients’ names and addresses, but today brands need to go beyond this to maximise engagement and response. The advent of programmatic direct mail enables content to be tailored to the recipient’s buying behaviours, product preferences and stage in the customer journey.

2. Act fast

Advances in digital print and automated production workflows enable individualised direct mail to be created, produced and distributed in as little as 24 hours. In an ‘abandoned basket’ scenario, for example, it is now possible to follow up the next day by sending the consumer a direct mailer featuring high-quality images of the items they had selected, and a limited-time discount voucher.

3. Get creative

Design can make or break direct mail. By drawing on a print service provider’s (PSP’s) expertise, it may be possible to incorporate unusual folding, sealing or cutting techniques into a design. For example, if it is sealed – as is necessary when using personal data – a hint at the offer inside or an engaging way to open it could engage the recipient from the moment they pick it up.

4. Engage the sense of touch

Research by Millward Brown and Bangor University found that the ‘real’ experience delivered by physical material makes it better at becoming part of memory4. In addition, in research for Royal Mail, 38% of direct mail recipients said its physical properties influenced how they felt about the sender5.More than half of the brain is devoted to sensory processing, much of which focuses on touch6. This is why everything from the weight and texture of the paper to tactile finishing techniques such as spot varnishing, embossing and debossing can affect the recipient’s perception of a brand.

4. Millward Brown. Retrieved 4 December 2018. Using Neuroscience to Understand the Role of Direct Mail.
5. Royal Mail MarketReach. August 2017. The Value of Mail in Uncertain Times.
6. Sappi. 2015. A Communicator’s Guide to the Neuroscience of Touch.

Clouds of colour

5. Choose the right format

Direct mail’s format has an impact on more than the price of postage. A 2012 study by the Data & Marketing Association found that oversized envelopes deliver the best response rates at 5%, followed by postcards at 4.25%, dimensional (more than 19mm thick) mailers at 4% and letter-sized envelopes at 3.5%, all scoring considerably higher than email at 0.12%7.

6. Use special effects

Laser cutting, scented varnishes, finishing techniques, special inks or combinations thereof can create effects that enhance the recipient’s sensory experience or turn a piece into something else altogether. A pre-Christmas mailer, for example, might double as an advent calendar featuring a different product or offer behind its 24 ‘doors’.

7. Bring it to life with colour

Colour plays a vital role in brand recognition, brand perception and even purchasing decisions8. Using the data at marketers’ fingertips, it can also enhance direct mail through the integration of eye-catching images. Whether highlighting a product abandoned at checkout or introducing something new, illustrating offers in full colour brings them to life.

7. DMN. 14 June 2012. DMA: Direct mail response rates beat digital.
8. Gregory Ciotti. 13 April 2016. Entrepreneur. The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding.

Couple looking at post after walking through front door

8. Make an offer

A compelling ‘offer’ has always been fundamental to successful direct mail campaigns, but with programmatic print it is now possible to tailor this precisely to each recipient’s preferences, buying behaviour and stage in the customer journey. As a result, direct mail can be used to manage ‘bounces’, ‘close’ abandoned sales and even re-establish relationships with lapsed customers.

9. Say it right

Copywriting for direct mail should focus on the customer, addressing their needs first instead of just telling them what you want them to hear. The ability to individualise print and integrate direct mail into the customer journey now makes it possible to do this using the same conversation mapping techniques and customer personas used in digital marketing.

10. Measure your results

By using cross-media it is possible to integrate printed direct mail with digital campaign elements and gather data on how recipients respond to mailers. An individualised mailer featuring a unique voucher code redeemable at a PURL, for example, could simultaneously enable data gathering and response rate measurement.

Today everything that can personalised in digital marketing can be personalised in print, enabling completely individualised printed direct mail that delivers the tangible and emotional appeal that makes recipients of print feel valued9. By intelligently integrating engaging direct mail with digital marketing, the channels can complement and enhance one another, deepening their impact.

9. Royal Mail MarketReach. February 2015. The Private Life Of Mail: Mail In The Home, Heart And Head.

Written by Tino Wägelein
Business Development Manager, Canon Europe

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