At the outset, it’s probably a good idea to define “direct mail”. For the purposes of this blog post, it means solo direct mail – a piece mailed on its own and not a ride-along promotion (e.g. package insert).

In a world of omnichannel marketing, what’s most important is that marketers – and yes, wineries are marketers – remain channel agnostic. Therefore, just because I’m focusing on direct mail (DM) doesn’t mean I’m advocating anything other than a multichannel approach. With that said, DM brings certain unique benefits: 1) it’s hyper-targeted and personal; 2) it allows you to be brand-impressive (think about truly elegant luxury brand invitations/mailers); 3) it’s tactile and resides in the physical world; and 4) it provides robust response metrics when compared to various digital offerings.

Not just for Boomers: With around 70M baby boomers accounting for 20% of our population, it’s easy to understand why DM is often focused on this demographic. Historically, we know they respond to and trust this medium. But, what about millennials? You might be surprised by the data:

  • In a recent survey, millennials saw DM as more trustworthy than digital ads and email.
  • In various recall rate studies, millennials demonstrated a 70% greater recall rate when exposed to DM vs. digital ads.
  • Over the course of a year, 23% of millennials exposed to DM will purchase or order as a result of the promotion.

Scale of the Medium: Yes, despite certain annual decreases (at least in the U.S.), marketers continue to use DM. More than 54% of all mail sent is DM. DM as a medium still accounts for approximately $40B.

Impact & Clutter: According to the USPS, the average American family receives about 454 pieces of DM over the course of a year, or 1.25 pieces per day. This, coupled with less regular mail, means each DM piece enjoys less clutter and is therefore more impactful. When we think about email, social and/or display, I’m not sure we can say the same.

Response Rates and Costs: All good marketers seek to surround their targeted consumer using a layered, omnichannel approach.  Therefore, when comparing response rates, it’s important to remain channel neutral – if the channel in question is returning an acceptable ROI, then it should continue to be used. Also, without discussing attribution, what often happens is that each channel is driven by the cumulative effect of all others. One need only look back at Yellow Tail’s Super Bowl TV buys that drove an 8% increase in sales during the doldrums of January and February to know that this is correct.

Response rates for DM vary widely depending on format, list, product, and offer. Certainly, you’ll find different response rates when mailing to your house file than you will find in an acquisition campaign. Given this caveat, and based on my experience, you can expect DM response rates to run between 1% and 5%. 10-50 orders per thousand is extremely favorable when compared to email, display, and social.

Costs, like response rates, can also vary widely. What type of format and production quality do you desire? What type of mailing list (compiled, etc.) are you using? The list goes on-and-on… for the purposes of this blog post, however, it’s enough to say the DM is expensive and CPMs can range between $500 and $1,500.

DM Marketers: DM will not work for every product and/or service offering. There is also significant complexity in developing a successful DM campaign. What DM will provide is a permanent way to deeply, and in some cases, elegantly tell your brand story. Of course, there are clear and historic rules and categories that dictate whether it’s a testable medium for your brand. With that said, marketers like Amazon, Wayfair, HelloFresh, Viking River Cruises, WSJ Wine and many others are successfully using DM.

And yes, it makes sense for ultra-luxury as well. As luxury specialists Walpole opined: “In a modern blizzard of digital marketing, direct mail is an outlier. Effective, trackable and with great ROI, for many it is still not seen as the glamorous option. However, clever luxury marketers have challenged this and the lowly, slowly absorbed physical mail-out has emerged as a secret weapon.”

On the Horizon: Most marketers understand the importance of coordinating their traditional and digital campaigns. DM is no different and can, in a variety of ways, be connected to your digital efforts. There are also some interesting and newer DM technologies that can close the remarketing loop based upon your online campaign. Think of these as remarketing in the physical rather than digital one.

Romancing your winery and, more importantly, telling your story in passionate prose is why DM is minimally testable for new customer acquisition. Is it costly? Yes. Is it worth it? In our experience, based on ROI, robust LTV (yes, LTV varies by channel) and brand perception, the answer is unquestionably yes!

In conclusion, the answer to the question “Is Direct Mail dead?” is no. Whether DM is right for your winery is an entirely different question. Trust an experienced CMO, advisor, or agency to know whether it is a channel you should add to your omnichannel mix.

By, Jeff Giordano