Mail Call

June 13, 2012

I recently received an envelope in the mail. It was rather plain and lacked much excitement. Yet it was intriguing in the sense that I was not sure what it contained. It was addressed to me personally and resembled a letter someone would receive at overnight camp. I studied the envelope for a minute or so and then opened it up. Inside, was nothing more than a junk marketing letter from a magazine we once advertised in years back. I studied it a little longer, admired the personalization of the message and then tossed it into the garbage. The entire process from letter in hand to garbage can lasted about 45 seconds.

Later that day, I received an email from another industry trade publication with the subject “One-Day remaining to advertise.” Faster than I could ever dream of throwing something in the trash, this email was quickly placed into my virtual trash bin.

I remember the name of the publication company that sent the direct mail. I even remember exactly what the envelope looked like.  On the other hand, I don’t even remember who the email came from and what the body of it said if anything at all. In fact, I never saw the body of the message. In a time of oversaturated cluttered online marketing, are we at the point where “old-fashion” direct marketing is more impactful?

Of course, direct snail mail is more expensive and uses more resources than shooting off an email blast. But consider the impression it leaves on the potential consumer. Also, consider the level of distraction the receiver has when they receive an email as opposed to their concentration level or better yet their lack of distraction when it arrives as paper mail. When a junk email arrives it sometimes never even reaches the inbox but rather it goes directly into their spam folder. At least with regular mail, some effort and involvement is required to discard it.

“Marketing messages should target customers at times when they are unoccupied, perhaps even actively seeking some sort of information to process. Consider, for example, an airplane on the landing path into an airport. Sitting upright, with in-flight entertainment and electronic devices switched off, passengers have little to do but to look out of the window and wait for the aircraft to land.” (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122427109679945225.html)

And that article was written nearly four years ago. So are we at the point where opening the ominous looking letter, albeit the same message as the email, is now not only the road less traveled, but also now the preferred one?