What’s better, direct mail or e-mail?

Last week I sent a letter out to some of our customers and friends.  In the letter I spoke about the value of direct mail vs. email.

Bobby Buchanan, principal of Buchanan Design and an AIGA San Diego board member, was one of those who received our letter and commented on the message sending the following email:

i would like to congratulate you for taking a lead on an issue that i have been talking about for almost a year now. i just received your letter with the pros/cons on printing and i could not agree with you more.

i love print and see great value in a WELL DESIGNED and well printed piece. there is so much visual garbage out there.  the reason why people are much against mailing is because it’s all considered “junk” mail and well, that’s just not good for the environment.

nothing can replace the benefits outlined in your letter better than a beautifully printed piece. nothing.

the environment argument i feel is tired and green washed to death.  we definitely have to be responsible.  everyone is jumping on the “green” bandwagon because it gives them an excuse to not spend on printing.  we grow tree’s just like we do corn, cotton, etc. we plant it, we harvest and we plant more. end of story.

i’m surprised that paper mills or even PIA has not taken a stronger approach on all this. it’s something that AIGA should be promoting as well.  as a designer, i know we have to balance out print and electronic methods of communication, but they are both equally as important.

just because online is cheaper, faster, and reaches more people in a click doesn’t ensure a greater response or return on investment.  this could vary with the industry, but i would say it applies to most businesses today.

i hope you continue to pound the drums and help get our awesome industry back on track.  i say “our” not because i’m a printer, but because print is so crucial to what we as designers do on a daily basis.  it’s what got many into this business in the first place.

thanks again,


Below is the copy from the letter  Bobby received:

What’s better, direct mail or e-mail?  Consider this; you’re reading this letter now…would you still be reading it if I sent it to you via e-mail?

Here are some of the Pros and Cons of Direct Mail vs. E-Mail

Direct Mail


  • Higher Viewer rate: Approximately 85% of consumers view their mail daily.
  • Adds tactile quality: Readers will touch and feel your message.
  • Personalized messages: response rates for personalized mailings average 21%.
  • Credibility: 80% of those who read a printed message believe it because print is credible.



  • Anti-Spam Mechanisms: On average 80% of “unsolicited emails” are blocked by spam filters, even so called “good” emails get blocked.
  • Email Overload: The average person receives approximately 274 personal and 304 business e-mails– per week.

Determining whether e-mail or direct mail is best for your marketing largely depends on your business model.  In today’s economic environment a combination of both probably makes the most sense in order to maximize your marketing return on investment.  The key is ensuring that you are delivering a compelling message to your targeted audience.

I hope this message did what I intended; to provide helpful information that shows the impact that direct mail can have.  If you would like more information on marketing with direct mail, or advise on your corporate identity material, please contact me directly.


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