Direct Mail Remains Unique

A recent Wall Street Journal article examines the global rise of mobile chat apps and their appeal as a potential platform for online marketing and commerce (WSJ – The Future of Mobile Chatting: Commerce).  Messaging apps like Apple’s iMessage and Google’s Gchat are familiar to users here in the US.  But from a usage perspective, they are well behind global leaders like WhatsApp and WeChat, a service provided by a Chinese firm Tencent

Mobile and internet service providers continue to look for new ways to monetize their platforms through advertising and marketing.  This means more messages going out to consumers through more channels.  Consumers, especially millennials, adjust their online profile and usage habits based on what’s “cool” (Facebook vs. Instagram; Instagram vs. Snapchat, etc.).  This creates a continual game a of catch-up for direct marketers trying to reach their audience… only to find the audience has moved on.

Like showing up at a party just as it’s breaking up, marketers are challenged to react quickly to a mercurial marketplace whose allegiance to any one online platform is tenuous.  This is especially true for users at the lower end of the coveted 18-35 demographic.  In a New York Times article (NYT: App Makers Reach Out to the Teenager on Mobile), a focus group conducted by Wishbone – a social networking application – surfaced this unsurprising insight: “(Teenagers) do not like advertisements but also do not like to pay for things”  If Facebook becomes uncool or has too many ads, teens (and many adults) shift their attention to apps that let them communicate directly with their friends and family without the intrusion of marketing.

So what does this have to do with direct mail?

Nothing.  Except that it underscores out what we have been saying all along.  As marketing and media channels proliferate along with the demographic segments these channels are designed to reach, it becomes harder and harder to gain critical mass through online marketing methods that have a lasting effect.  Direct mail remains unique in its ability to reach every consumer household, and reach those consumers in a comparatively unobtrusive way.  To make a lasting impression, the marketer’s challenge is how to leverage the direct mail channel to support and reinforce the messaging that is delivered through mail’s more ephemeral online counterparts.

It’s all direct marketing and it’s all good.