Direct mail should be defined as an accompaniment not an alternative to email

The battle between the protectors of physical and electronic mail has often been brutal. Contributors of comments on Marketing Week’s website over the years have never been backwards in coming forwards in pressing their cases.

Russell Parsons

In summary, e-mailers accuse direct mailers of crimes against the environment, while mailers point to scattergun spamming. For those that ply their trade in the direct mail sector the stakes are high as it it could be said their livelihoods are at risk.

However, peace might be about to break out with indication that the two can work in perfect harmony with each other.

A recent report by peace brokers the Direct Marketing Association and fast.MAP based on a study of 1,232 adults found that consumers see the two in different ways. The direct mail that is not thrown in the bin at first site is seen as trustworthy and authoritative and email as engendering quick response.

Those representing the report’s backers went further by suggesting the role of direct marketing had changed and was now a brand builder to emails closer.

David Cole, managing director of fast.MAP, says: “Post is also seen as more memorable and authoritative, whereas email provides the ease of response and the ability to share. We can therefore see how direct mail can then lay the foundation to make the role of email as a tool for response work much harder.”

Warming to the theme but going to bat for physical DM , Rachel Aldighieri, director of communications and insight at the DMA, says direct mail plays a “seamless” role in a connected world and offers “qualities” not found in other marcomms.

Direct mail as we all know is in decline and it is the cheaper, often personalised and shareable email that is chiefly responsible for that decline. That’s not say it doesn’t have a future.

The possibilities of interaction offered by a piece of physical mail and the resulting engagement with a brand is unique to the channel. But only if the mail is imaginative, creative and stands apart from what email offers.

For DM, the argument to choose it over email has been lost. It should now be about defining itself as an accompaniment not an alternative.

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