Consumers Like Direct Mail

For the past several years, direct mail has been bashed for being too old school and past its time. The reality is far from that. Direct mail response is on the rise. Consumers enjoy getting direct mail that is applicable to them. When direct mail is targeted correctly, it will not be considered “junk mail.” Yes, even millennials like to get mail

For the past several years, direct mail has been bashed for being too old school and past its time. The reality is far from that. Direct mail response is on the rise. Consumers enjoy getting direct mail that is applicable to them. When direct mail is targeted correctly, it will not be considered “junk mail.” Yes, even millennials like to get mail.

Here are a few reasons people like to get mail:

  • Its delivered to their home through no effort on their part
  • It can be fun (get creative and think outside of the box)
  • A way to save money (people like a good deal)
  • It’s informative (people are curious)
  • It’s easily kept for future reference or use (use a magnet, they can then post on the fridge)

Direct mail statistics you should know (as reported in “From Letterbox to Inbox 2013”):

  • 79 percent of consumers say that they act on direct mail immediately
  • 56 percent of consumers stated that they found printed marketing to be the “most trustworthy” of all media channels

So what do people do after they get a direct mail piece? (“Consumer study reveals ‘direct mail matters’ in connected world,” July 11, 2013)

  • 44 percent visit a brands’ website
  • 34 percent search online for more information about the product
  • 26 percent keep the mailing for future reference

Keeping all of the above in mind, how can you change the way you send direct mail? Are you focused on the consumer and what is in it for them? Do you have a clear call to action and the benefits they get by responding? When you think you do, get someone from outside your organization to critique it for you. You will be surprised with what you can learn.

Using the fact that almost half of the recipients will go online and check you out after getting your direct mail piece, do you have landing pages designed with them in mind? Are you using responsive design so that they can view your website and landing pages on mobile devices? These days, using responsive design is the best way to have your online content look correctly no matter what device is looking at it. Direct mail will drive people to online engagement; make sure you are ready for them.

The only way that direct mail will continue to work is if we as marketers send direct mail to consumers that is designed well, has a clear call to action and is targeted to the right people. This keeps recipients happy and increases your response rates.

Mobile Advertising Isn’t Just for Big Brands Anymore

The increasing use of mobile devices, mobile Web, multiple advertising platforms and the advancement of network technologies creates new opportunities in the advertising market. But the reality is mobile advertising is still new to many businesses, so it’s important to take a strategic approach to these types of mobile initiatives. Below you will find a baseline to help you get started on your new campaign

The increasing use of mobile devices, mobile Web, multiple advertising platforms and the advancement of network technologies creates new opportunities in the advertising market. According to BI Intelligence, spending on mobile advertising is set to reach $42 billion by 2018 and grow faster than all other digital marketing categories. That’s huge! But the reality is mobile advertising is still new to many businesses, so it’s important to take a strategic approach to these types of mobile initiatives.

Below you will find a baseline to help you get started on your new campaign.

  • Don’t Overthink It: In the transition from desktop to mobile, the classic banner ad has shrunk to 300×50, a tiny ad unit that does nothing to optimize the ad experience to mobile. As such, your mobile ad has only a limited window of opportunity to get through to your audience. This means that your mobile ads need to focus on a single message. Don’t try to cram too much text or any complicated images into your in-app banner ads. Keep it simple. One message at a time.
  • Understanding Leads to Personalized Experiences: Mobile ads are useful because brands can collect a lot of information about how consumers are interacting with their ads. For example, whether people are clicking on your ads (or not), and, more importantly, what are they doing beyond the click to build a deeper engagement with your brand. You can then use these events to better retarget customers and target similar customers (look-a-likes). The best thing about mobile is the ability to have at the very moment targeting: right time, right place and right device. The promise of hyper-local targeting is a huge benefit of mobile advertising.
  • Kickstart Relationships by Adding Value: One of the best ways to boost your mobile advertising campaign is to focus on adding value at every touch point. Also, with the increased focus on brand building ads, video and native ads, you can really create a dynamic and powerful customer experience. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to add value to your customers’ lives, sometimes providing useful content such as a white paper or informational video can be enough to start a relationship.
  • Test, Measure, Optimize, Repeat: One reason mobile ads don’t have to do it all is because it’s easy to create multiple versions and multivariate test them to see which works best. Unfortunately, one of the biggest mistakes marketers make is not having developers test their ads. Experiment with different offers, different creative designs, and different messages. See what works best. You might be surprised—the message your team thought was clever may not resonate with customers. Sometimes even a simple change in text, design or details of your offer can pay huge dividends. Let the performance results speak for you and allow you to make powerful data driven decisions quickly to achieve your KPIs.

Mobile advertising will never be the end all, be all for companies. What marketers need to be focused on is, “how can you make sure that your mobile ads are doing enough?” By taking a personalized approach, with one specific behavior you’re trying to impact, and testing its effectiveness, you’ll find the right way to get big results from your small screen advertising.

Augmented Reality, Wearable Electronics and the Postal Service’s Future

In my previous blog post, I commented on the United States Postal Service and its announced plans for five-day delivery, discussing the importance of hard-copy communication and a commitment to deliver such communication on a daily basis. In extending this commentary, I claim no nostalgia for daily mail delivery, rather simply recognition that such communication has its unique position as a vehicle for superb brand engagement. The Postal Service is not standing still in the digital age.

In my previous blog post, I commented on the United States Postal Service and its announced plans for five-day delivery, discussing the importance of hard-copy communication and a commitment to deliver such communication on a daily basis. In extending this commentary, I claim no nostalgia for daily mail delivery, rather simply recognition that such communication has its unique position as a vehicle for superb brand engagement.

The Postal Service is not standing still in the digital age.

Last October, when the Postal Service announced its intention to raise rates this past January, it also announced its schedule for postage promotions through 2013. And in the mix is a bevy of technology-driven, multichannel “positioning” of direct mail that leverages mobile and interactive channels.

Discounts
Look at this selected line-up from the USPS promotion calendar:

  • March-April 2013: Mobile Coupon/Click-to-Call
    This promotion seeks to increase the value of direct mail by further highlighting the integration of mail with mobile technology in two specific ways. First, the promotion would encourage mailers to integrate hard-copy coupons in the mail with mobile-optimized platforms for redemption. Second, the promotion will drive consumer awareness, and increased usage, of mail containing mobile barcodes with “click-to-call” functionality.

    Provides a 2-percent discount on the qualifying postage for First-Class Mail and Standard Mail presort or automation letters, postcards and flats sent during the established program period that include a two dimensional mobile barcode inside or on the mailpiece. The barcode must either lead the recipient to a coupon that can be stored on a mobile device, or enable the recipient to connect by telephone to another person or call center via a mobile device.

  • August-September 2013: Emerging Technology
    This promotion is designed to build on the successes of past mobile barcode promotions by promoting awareness of how innovative technology—such as near-field communication, augmented reality and authentication—can be integrated with a direct mail strategy to enhance the value of direct mail.

    Provide a 2-percent discount on the qualifying postage for First-Class Mail and Standard Mail presort or automation letters, postcards, and flats that are sent during the established program period and include print that allows the recipient to engage in one of the following:

    • an augmented reality experience facilitated by a smartphone or computer,
    • authentication of the recipient’s identity, or
    • an experience facilitated via Near Field Communication.

To receive the discount, mailers must comply with the eligibility requirements of the program.

  • November-December 2013: Mobile Buy-it-Now
    This promotion will encourage mailers to adopt and invest in technologies that enhance how consumers interact and engage with mail, and demonstrate how direct mail can be a convenient method for consumers to do their holiday shopping.

    Provides a 2-percent discount on the qualifying postage for First-Class Mail and Standard Mail presort or automation letters, postcards, and flats which include a mobile barcode inside or on the mailpiece that facilitates a mobile optimized shopping experience. To receive the discount, the qualifying mail must be sent during the established program period by mailers that comply with the eligibility requirements of the program

Augmented Reality
Next, in January during the media-frenzy of Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, this Venture Beat post appeared, reporting on a USPS mobile app that uses “augmented reality” (subject of the August-September 2013 promotion) to integrate direct mail promotions with interactive programming on a mobile device and give recipients an enhanced digital experience with the mail piece. In augmented reality, a physical ad and an interactive ad comes together by way of an app, developed by Aurasma, rather than a QR Code. Augmented reality can be applied to any visual cues.

The apps keep coming. Associated Press then reported that Val-Pak, the company that sends blue envelopes stuffed with coupons, also wants consumer households to save money while driving. Valpak has partnered with Roximity, a Denver-based app developer, to bring coupons and deals to drivers of newer-model Fords and Lincolns who use the voice-controlled Sync AppLink connected to their mobile phone. The app allows people to hear about personalized deals from stores, restaurants and other businesses as they drive. The “coupon” appears on the driver’s smartphone and can be redeemed once the car is stopped.

Wearable Electronics
And how can you keep it all connected—the mail, the apps, the augmented reality, the mobile coupons? Why through wearable electronics, of course, article courtesy of The Atlantic Wire. The fashion verdict may be out, but the Postal Service is clearly thinking hard on how to keep mail relevant in an increasingly digital—and mobile—age.

I still maintain that the six or seven direct mail pieces I receive a day are precious real estate. They represent a tiny portion of the thousands of advertisements and brand “touches” I’m exposed to each and every day. Yet this is advertising that is largely targeted, and one with which I have a tactile experience—reading, responding, recycling as I deem appropriate. This is a powerful consideration, one that I certainly pay closer attention to. Will I be running to the app store to integrate this experience with my smartphone? Not anytime soon, but a hoodie for my iPod, ThinkPad and Samsung to tote and plug into would be nice.

Mythbusters: Digital, Mail and Green Marketing Payback

The “Mythbusters” of Discovery Channel’s hit show get to blow things up while putting myths to the tests of science. At the Direct Marketing Association’s annual marketing conference, I paid tribute to personal heroes Jamie and Adam (the real TV Mythbusters) by blowing up some green marketing myths that have infiltrated both consumer and agency attitudes toward sustainable marketing practice. If left unchecked, today’s common green myths can sacrifice campaign integrity, leave profitable sustainability solutions untapped, alienate consumers and contribute to environmental harm

In this week’s “Marketing Sustainability,” I’ve invited the newly named chair of the Direct Marketing Association Committee on the Environment and Social Responsibility—Adam Freedgood of New York-based Quadriga Art—to share with readers a “myths v. facts” discussion on sustainability and marketing, presented recently at the DMA2012 conference in Las Vegas, NV. —Chet Dalzell

The “Mythbusters” of Discovery Channel’s hit show get to blow things up while putting myths to the tests of science. At the Direct Marketing Association’s annual marketing conference, I paid tribute to personal heroes Jamie and Adam (the real TV Mythbusters) by blowing up some green marketing myths that have infiltrated both consumer and agency attitudes toward sustainable marketing practice. If left unchecked, today’s common green myths can sacrifice campaign integrity, leave profitable sustainability solutions untapped, alienate consumers and contribute to environmental harm. A 30-minute town square session called “Mythbusters: Green Marketing Edition” debunked and discussed a dozen print, digital and multichannel myths, resulting in new opportunities to drive profitability from sustainability of campaign execution.

The troubling truth about green marketing myths is that they appeal to our aspirations and can quickly become ingrained in business practice. For example, “going green costs more,” “digital is greener than print,” “you can save a tree by not printing this article,” and “storing your data in the cloud means fluffy white beams of clean energy will power your campaign data storage, forever.”

Marketing missteps can grant mythological status to simple misconceptions virtually overnight. Consider the classic “go green, go paperless.” This little beauty appeared out of nowhere and now graces billing statements everywhere. There is no quantifiable environmental benefit attached to the claim, which creates risk to brand integrity. Unsupported green claims violate the Federal Trade Commission’s “Green Guides” enacted earlier this year. The “go paperless” phrase subjugates marketing best practice, opting instead for a greedy grab at the small subset of consumers who attach singificant value to a brand’s environmental attributes. A direct response mechanism that acknowledges basic consumer preferences would do just fine.

The evolution of product stewardship regulation, rising resource costs and consumer preferences support the business case for infusing sustainability in all aspects of marketing best practice. The full myth busting presentation is a Jeopardy-style game board rendered interactively in PowerPoint, available to download here.

Here are a few green marketing myths we debunked that offer urgent, profitable insights for print, digital and multichannel marketers:

Myth 1: “Delivering products and services online, or in the cloud, represents a shift toward environmentally friendly communications, compared with print-based media.”

Reality: This myth is busted. Digital communications shift the tangible environmental impact of marketing campaigns away from the apparent resource requirements associated with paper, transport and end-of-life impacts of print campaigns. By way of fossil fuel-powered data centers that are largely out of sight and out of mind, digital carries a surprising set of environmental hazards. A September 2012 New York Times article highlights the growing connection between data centers and air pollution due to massive energy requirements and dirty fossil-based power inputs. The digital devices used to create and deliver online content to consumers contain toxic heavy metals and petroleum-based plastics. Electronic devices are too toxic for our landfills but are recycled at an abysmal rate. According to the Electronics Takeback Coalition, the U.S. generates more than 3 million tons of “e-waste” annually but recycles only 15 percent.

Myth 2: The United States Postal Service (USPS) has struggled to implement comprehensive sustainability strategies due to declining mail volume and the related shortage of revenue available to invest in green activities.

Reality: Myth busted. The USPS is a prime example of an organization that has embraced the business case for sustainability by making extensive investments in greening most aspects of the organization’s operations. USPS has applied a “triple bottom line” approach to sustainability—the perspective that investments in green business must perform on dimensions of profitability, environmental sustainability and stakeholder impacts. Through postal facility energy efficiency retrofits and attention to sustainability at all levels of operations, USPS has saved $400 million since 2007, according to its sustainability report. Through some 400 employee green teams, USPS employs a bottom-up approach to sustainability that produces substantial cost and energy savings.

Myth 3: Green initiatives have a long, three to five year payback period, placing them at odds with other organizational priorities, such as investments in fast-paced digital marketing infrastructure.

Reality: Myth busted. While some sustainability measures, such as building energy efficiency retrofits, carry a payback period of several years depending on finance and incentives, there are innovative approaches to sustainability for direct marketers that yield much faster financial gains. For example, performing a packaging design audit that identifies downsized product packages and renewable materials can produce immediate savings while dramatically reducing environmental impact. Consolidating IT infrastructure and applying best practices in data center efficiency and server virtualization produces fast financial returns for firms operating in-house data centers. Lastly, Innovative programs that engage customers and suppliers in sustainability also produce quick gains with minimal investment. Starbucks’s “beta cup” competition mobilized a global audience of packaging designers, students and inventors in search of more sustainable coffee cups. The design submissions confronted a key sustainability issue head-on, allowing the chain to engage stakeholders in the solution.

Adam Freedgood is a sustainable business strategy specialist and director of business development at global nonprofit direct marketing firm Quadriga Art in New York City. Reach him on Twitter @thegreenophobe or email adam@freedgood.com.

Should the iPad be in Your Channel Mix?

The iPad launch has been manna to procrastinators everywhere, between all those endearing toddler/house pet and iPad videos, the countless tweets and retweets, and a guaranteed handful of daily news articles and blog posts (add this one to the count). Beyond a source for personal amusement, the iPad has turned out to be a surprising gift to the marketing community. I’ll get to that later, but let’s start with a dose of reality.

Or, you might already be in it and not even know it yet …

The iPad launch has been manna to procrastinators everywhere, between all those endearing toddler/house pet and iPad videos, the countless tweets and retweets, and a guaranteed handful of daily news articles and blog posts (add this one to the count). Beyond a source for personal amusement, the iPad has turned out to be a surprising gift to the marketing community. I’ll get to that later, but let’s start with a dose of reality.

It’s imperfect. It’s no secret, the iPad is flawed. It’s expensive, it’s awkward to hold, it’s heavy and its most compelling feature — streaming videos — limps along or not at all when you try to use it out of Wi-Fi range. And let’s not even get started on the lack of Flash support. But despite all its faults, it’s a device worth paying attention to.

Does the iPad change everything? At the recent “All Things D” conference, Steve Jobs described the iPad as a revolutionary device that’s nothing short of “magical,” while Steve Ballmer countered at the same event that the device is “just another PC.” In a way, Ballmer’s right. The iPad is “just another PC” in that it, too, is a container — a vehicle for content delivery. But how that content experience comes to life is raising the bar and making us rethink existing paradigms.

Blurring the lines. Until now, the idea of “lean-forward” versus “lean-back” media consumption has been a useful shorthand to delineate the active, more engaged nature of internet usage versus the laid-back, take-it-in mode of watching TV. However, this framework doesn’t neatly apply to the iPad. Steve Jobs alludes to this key difference when he describes a more “direct and intimate” nature of media consumption, and that with the iPad “it’s like some intermediate thing has been removed and stripped away.”

Spectacipation. You heard it here first. What the iPad offers is an experience that resides between that of spectator and participant. The perfect example is a well executed magazine on the iPad. Among the early crop of iPad-enabled publications, Wired stands out. First of all, the issue loads in its entirety locally, and is accessible even when you’re not online. You can be lazily flipping through the latest issue much as you would the print version. As you’re reading an article, you can effortlessly listen to a related audio clip or view a video montage with a tap of your finger.

It’s not about the apps.
If you’re a marketer, it’s not iPad apps you should be thinking about; it’s the iPad-enabled magazines and newspapers. With the iPad, and unlike the iPhone, you have a way to fast-track your presence through these publishers. In addition to Wired, other iPad-enabled monthly titles include Men’s Health, Popular Science, Vanity Fair and Time, with many more publishers planning their debut over the next few months.

If you advertise in print, chances are — whether you know it or not — you’re heading to the iPad. Take advantage of the opportunity; instead of merely embedding your 15-second ad, think about the “ideal” experience. Make it entertaining, make it fun, make it unexpected. In short, make it worth the reader’s effort to shift from spectator to participatory mode.

Should the iPad be in your channel mix? Likely, it already is.

Margie Chiu’s 15 Minutes Ahead: Augmented Reality – Sure, It’s Cool, but What’s in It for Me?

If 2009 was the year of iPhone apps, then augmented reality may be the darling of 2010. It’s that Hollywood technology that’s found its way into Burger King banner ads, a slew of “must-have” smartphone apps, the cover of Esquire and soon Adidas shoes. 

If 2009 was the year of iPhone apps, then augmented reality (AR) may be the darling of 2010. It’s that Hollywood technology that’s found its way into Burger King banner ads, a slew of “must-have” smartphone apps, the cover of Esquire and soon Adidas shoes.

So, what’s it all about?
AR enhances the “real” physical world with contextually specific imagery or information. The AR experience is typically triggered in two ways.

The first is through location recognition via GPS/compass-enabled smartphones or other devices. With Wikitude, for example, you can point your camera phone toward a famous landmark and see an overlay of information about the destination pulled directly from Wikipedia.

The second is through image recognition via a video camera in your laptop, desktop or phone. With the USPS Virtual Box Simulator, you can hold up a package to your webcam and the simulator helps you determine the shipping box size you need.

What are the facts?

AR has captured more than its fair share of press coverage lately due to a handful of high-profile marketing application launches and the entry of major players into the space, including Google with its Google Goggles (think search on steroids), Nokia and Apple. But is 2010 the year AR takes over? Probably not.

Penetration of webcams is still limited, and the market share of GPS/compass-enabled smartphones is even lower. The installed base for webcams is estimated to be in the 15 percent to 20 percent range. As for smartphones, despite all the excitement (and what you and your tech-loving marketing friends are toting), more than 80 percent of all U.S. mobile phones are still limited-function, “nonsmart” phones.

Does this mean you don’t need to be thinking about AR? Try again. It’s a technology that will hit mass penetration in a couple of years. Many newly shipped computers now have webcams preinstalled. And two-thirds of Americans will be getting new phones within two years — and many of them have their sights set on smartphones.

What are the opportunities?
Whether and when AR should be considered as part of your marketing mix depends on your company, brand and audience. But the following are three potential marketing applications for AR:

1. Riding the buzz wave. Want to be perceived as hip and of the moment? This is the low-hanging fruit with any new technology. This opportunity is most applicable to the entertainment industry and/or companies targeting youths and early adopters. This is a tricky area, however. Speed is of the essence, as you want to be seen as being on the “bleeding edge.” Remember, though, to hang with the cool kids, you have to be, well, cool. Halfhearted attempts without a strategy or purpose will be viewed skeptically.

2. Bridging offline and online. AR can be an opportunity to smooth sales or service friction points that result from a lack of in-person interactions. Natural fits are with beauty, apparel or home furnishings e-commerce sites. Ray-Ban’s Virtual Mirror is a good example of this. It helps consumers find the perfect sunglasses. They just look right into their cameras and “try on” different looks.

3. Enhancing the real experience. Possibilities include helping customers find their way through a store or shopping center, on-demand product information, and more. Unfortunately, the limitation of GPS indoor signal strength and the complexity of image recognition will be significant near-term hurdles. But you might be inspired by the Voodoo Festival and its custom AR app, which enables festival attendees to use their camera phones to get details about performances and navigate the festival venue.

Thinking ahead
What would you do differently if device penetration wasn’t a barrier? Are there processes or experiences that can be enhanced through AR — either made more entertaining, informative or relevant? The possibility of AR is exciting. Creatively it opens a good many doors and forces marketers to look at customers’ experiences in a different way.

Stay tuned.