Direct Mail Marketing is far from dead!

This week we will be focusing on a commonly asked question in a society that is continually becoming more digitally focused, “Does digital mean the death of direct mail?”

As new digital agencies spring up by the day, promising big marketing returns for a fraction of the cost, it’s easy to see why companies are increasingly moving from more traditional methods of advertising to those that are delivered online.

Social Media companies are continuing to make their platforms more accessible and advertiser-friendly meaning some marketing departments have begun to completely close the door on direct mail (DM).

Having been in the business for over 40 years now Dataconversion has witnessed the rise, fall and revival of DM and can, therefore, attest to its effectiveness as a method of communication.

Cutting through the clutter

Although digital alternatives to traditional DM, namely e-DM (email direct marketing), can at first seem like a more cost-effective method they face the ever-increasing battle of cutting through the clutter.

According to Peter Whelehan, of DMCM, “It’s all about what clients get for their budget.  So, it’s not about the cost or spend in isolation, but rather what that spends delivers in terms of campaign objectives and results”.

Unlike your letterbox, your inbox does a particularly effective job of sorting your mail into that which you actually want to read and all the other stuff.

This is great for time conscious 21st century consumers but not so great for brands looking to communicate with you.

In fact, industry commentators estimate that when it comes to email prospecting campaigns, 95%+ of all emails are never opened.

A numbers game

The issue with the accessibility of digital communication is that of complacency.

Adding contacts to your marketing lists became more of a numbers game than one of actually adding value.

We all know the pain of being able to hardly visit a website without being bombarded with pop-ups on how fantastic it is to be on X company’s exclusive mailing list.

Luckily a lot of this has been changing under GDPR as companies can no longer bundle marketing consent with competition entries, T’s & C’s or as a sneaky pre-ticked box.

The new regulation has, of course, sent most marketing departments into overdrive with everyone from your hairdresser to the spamming you with emails pleading with customers to consent to their communications.

The GDPR-pocalypse

With the overall confusion that still surrounds GDPR it seems that marketing departments are afraid to sneeze without first getting consent to do so.

Yet despite all this An Post reported an overall boost in Direct Mail in Q1 2018.

So why is this you might ask?

Well unaddressed mail or mail addressed to “the occupant”, “the resident” or “the householder” does not normally involve the use of personal data and consequently GDPR would not apply.

However, where a data controller can identify “the occupant”, “the resident” or “the householder” from the address in conjunction with other data in or likely to come into his possession, this may involve the processing of personal data and as such GDPR would apply.

Having said this, much of the direct mail that businesses send today is sent lawfully on the basis of opt-out, not opt-in (i.e. consent).

In these instances, there is therefore no legal requirement for these businesses to seek fresh consents under the GDPR because their marketing was never based on consent (opt-in) in the first place.

Some companies are electing to go opt-in only for direct mail and rely on consent only, but they don’t have to as legitimate interest is regarded as perfectly valid by the ICO for DM, as long as the business is really making a considered case.

E-marketing also has the added pressure of complying with the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations or PECR as it is more commonly known.

The e-privacy Directive complements the general data protection regime and sets out more-specific privacy rights on electronic communications.

PECR rules apply to all electronic communications including marketing calls, emails and texts and can extend to online marketing, social networking or other emerging channels of communication.

According to Peter Whelehan, “From a customer experience point of view, and this is borne out in research, people trust direct mail over and above other channels, especially the likes of email.  And, with the GDPR, direct mail remains an opt-out channel making it even more appealing”.


Aside from the benefits of being able to contact customers via DM and the ability to cut through the clutter, DM has the element of tangibility that e-DM simply can’t replace.

Direct mail can be three-dimensional: you can touch and feel it; and in some cases like scratch ‘n’ sniff, you can even smell it.

Nowadays we are constantly bombarded with video ads, remarketing and PPC; direct mail offers you the chance to get something real into the hands of your audience creating a connection that just isn’t the same with email or other online advertisements.

Direct mail also boasts the ability to have virtually unlimited creative execution options.  From different shapes and sizes to snap packs to scratch and reveal to windows, die cuts and intricate folds.

This is just simply not something which can be achieved with digital methods.

So, in the era of GDPR, diminishing attention spans and inboxes that filter for us, direct mail is a great way to cut through the clutter and get into the hands of your target consumer.


Get in contact today and find out how you can optimise your next marketing campaign by adding direct mail to the mix!