Is it time for a BIG direct mail piece?

large format direct mailAh, the good old days.

Just a few years ago, I could count on receiving a mailbox-full of direct mail nearly every day, including the crown jewel of direct marketing, the BIG direct mail piece.

Thick #10′s, fat 6×9′s, and beefy 9×12′s once stood atop the mountain of attention-grabbing communication.

But then came hard days for the publishing industry, higher postal and printing costs, the rise of electronic media, and a faltering economy that dried up the stream of direct mail.

Today, the mail delivers anemic postcards, cheap fliers, and the occasional #10 envelope with a short letter inside. And it’s made many wonder if direct mail has gone the way of the dinosaur.

Industry pundits have been sounding the death knell for direct mail. Though, those pundits have generally been young and directly involved with social media, email, and other electronic media. They’ve had no love for, or experience with, traditional media and shed no tears for its assumed extinction.

But as I’ve been saying for some time, the reports of direct mail’s demise are greatly exaggerated.

Despite all the new media opportunities, people are beginning to realize that Twitter, Facebook, email, blogs, and other innovations are not delivering the stunning results promised. In fact, many are now waking up from their dream of a paperless marketing world and asking, “Where are the sales?”

What people are discovering is that traditional media, including direct mail, still work. That includes the big direct mail piece.

I’ll admit that it may be hard to justify mailing big in today’s economy when, often, sales aren’t there regardless of the medium. But I’m starting to see more and more big direct mail pieces.

The Ballantine Blog features one in a recent video case study. It’s a big, honkin’, poly-wrapped 9×12 subscriber acquisition mailing with 6 components: a 4-page letter, 17×22 brochure, backer/reply, 2 lift notes, and BRE.

And this isn’t the only large package I’ve seen lately. I’ve received a thick #10 envelope package from Planner Pads, a 36-page magalog from Jerry Baker, an 8.5×11 poly-wrap from Highlights for Children, and a traditional donor package from Smile Train. Plus I’m seeing a significant increase in larger credit card and financial mailings.

Compared to a few years ago, it’s just a trickle. But the big packages seem to be making a comeback. And I know why:

I’m not down on all the new media. But I have a large client base and I’ve talked to many of them about their marketing. They’re not saying they’re switching to new media. They’re just saying they’re holding tight for the time being.

So as the economy recovers from its coma, all those pent up dollars are not going to fly into electronic media. My bet is, they’re going back into traditional, proven media, such as direct mail.

And today’s trickle of big packages will turn into a wave of  longer letters, bigger brochures, and larger formats. Why? Because it works.

Is it time for you to test a big direct mail piece?

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4 Responses to “Is it time for a BIG direct mail piece?”

  1. Gogo | Denver Management Consultants on November 5th, 2010 3:41 pm

    This is a really timely article. Businesses just keep forgetting that the marketplace is a dynamic monster that should be continually monitored in an a response and counter-response type of framework.

    As more and more businesses adopt social media and other marketing channels, it only makes sense that the vacuum created in direct mail would result in increased response rates for those smart marketers who continue to try to “do it all”.

    Thanks for your thoughts.


  2. cissp training on November 12th, 2010 7:34 am

    Its awesome, and informative post.

  3. Michael Jahn on November 16th, 2010 9:11 pm

    Nice. Another method I use is to deliver my self sustainable carbon based unit. Yes, it is 6’1, 240 lbs and bald, but it get attention when it walks in the door and shakes your hand.

  4. Dean Rieck on November 16th, 2010 9:46 pm

    Well, as Fairfax Cone said, “Advertising is what you do when you can’t go see somebody. That’s all it is.”

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