Millennials Respond to Direct Mail – Say What?

“Life is like a box of direct mail, you never know what you’re gonna get.” Maybe that’s what Forrest Gump meant to say?  Or maybe not.

It’s time to debunk the notion I’ve heard and read too many times to count over the last several years, that millennials want nothing to do with paper … anything.  Digital rules all with this segment, we’re told (actually many sub-segments within Millennials, but that’s another blog topic) and email, targeted keywords, programmatic and native display, dynamic online content, gaming and social media are your only bets to reach this high value cohort.

The digital channels and tactics certainly can reach your millennial audience. The bigger question is, do they notice? And do they respond to your messaging?

Neuroscience proves millennials respond to direct mail more than digital!

Receiving a well-targeted, relevant, interesting and creative direct mail package can be novel and exciting for millennials. In fact, if you want to reach Canada’s largest working population (and most marketers do), integrating direct mail into your campaigns is scientifically proven to be one of the most effective channels for driving recall and response.

A neuroscience study done by Canada Post1 in 2015 cited below and downloadable here, looked at the response-driving power of direct mail versus digital assets. There were four overarching findings and for this post, let’s start with the first key point: Direct mail is easier to understand and more memorable than digital media.  In fact, direct mail requires 21% less cognitive effort to process than digital media (the tactile nature of direct mail clearly helps!).

And this United States Postal Service 2016 study, showed that nearly half of millennials ignore digital ads, while only 15% ignore direct mail. For many younger consumers, ‘banner blindness’ has moved well beyond that into a compartmentalized capacity to ignore everything digital, until she or he chooses not to…

That’s right, stand-alone digital campaigns are being ignored – so integrate!

 It seems counterintuitive that the generation that grew up with smart phones in their hands, abundant access to media and the IoT, would sometimes prefer real paper in their hands. Yet the fatigue that this digital culture and technological shift has created with consumers, means the age-old tactical channel of direct mail can be as relevant as ever – maybe even more!

When digital ad campaigns started driving revenue, it made logical sense that marketers should capitalize on the environment in which their target audience spends so much time. People flocked to the idea that the best way to reach a youthful audience is via their Facebook or Twitter feed. But online you are competing with so many other messages at one time, and millennial audiences have been conditioned (haven’t we all?) to tune out the bombardment of digital ads and even native content, scrolling right by to find that next viral monkey video.

It seems the digital age has created an associated neurological fatigue. That fatigue, in part, explains why direct mail is more memorable.  Your audience can be targeted by hundreds (thousands!) of brands at any time online. But when your offer appears in their physical mailbox, you can break through some of the digital clutter – we call it cutting through the noise. (In fact, millennials spend exponentially more time with direct mail as opposed to digital ads, but we’ll get to that in another post.)

Campaign tactics and channels should never be deployed in isolation. Long-term marketing success is built on audience engagement over time, through a variety of integrated channels that need to target and deliver to the right consumer, with the right message, at the right time.

Want to learn more about how we can help you cut through the noise?  Just contact us any time. 

Stay tuned for Part 2, about the persuasion of direct mail, later this month.


1 “A BIAS FOR ACTION: The neuroscience behind the response-driving power of direct mail. July 31, 2015.”  Canada Post’s research partner True Impact Marketing was assisted by Thomas Ramsoy, PhD, Senior Researcher and Head of the Decision Neuroscience Research Group at Copenhagen Business School and the Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance (DRCMR).