Tag Archives: Direct mail

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.


Why Print? Here Are 10 Good Reasons

I received a copy of Why Print? (a Print Council promotional piece) printed and mailed by Graytor Printing out of Lyndhurst NJ. It’s full of interesting tidbits for those who need ammunition to help print buyers understand how print fits into the marketing mix.

Here are the “Top Ten Ways Print Helps You Prosper:”

  • Print is for keeps.
  • Print is portable.
  • Print drives a higher ROI.
  • Print is beautiful.
  • Print plays well with others.
  • Buyers seek print.
  • Print is credible.
  • Print puts them in control.
  • Print is personal.
  • Print is everywhere.

There is a lot of “back story” to go with those ten points, so you should get a pdf from the Print Council to find out more.

Toner offsetting on mailed letters

I noticed that when I print a letter using my desktop laser printer the letter looks great when I put it in the envelope and mail it.  However, when the envelope arrives at the address I mailed it to, quite often the letter has toner offset on the portion of the letter where the type rubbed off on the paper.  I’ve noticed this on many of the letters that I’ve received in the mail as well.

In doing some research, I’ve learned that the U.S. Post Office uses high speed mail sorting equipment and this equipment puts sufficient pressure on the envelopes to make the toner offset. The USPS ran a lot of engineering tests years ago and concluded that though there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the effect, it cannot be entirely eliminated. This happens with letters produced on the desktop as well as those produced by high-speed laser printers.  So, a letter produced with toner, is prone to offset.

There are few solutions to this problem that are viable – fold the letter “outside” so that any toner transfer will be to the inside of the envelope; mail the letter without folding it in a booklet envelope, or add a slip sheet where appropriate to receive toner transfer.

The slip-sheet is a hassle and can look odd when received, the 9 x 12 envelope is more expensive to mail, and if you fold a letter “outside” then the content of the letter can be read through the envelope.  The mailing industry has moved past this issue (it has been around for 8-10 years), not having come up with an easy solution to the problem.  So I recommend folding a letter “outside” when privacy is not an issue or spend the extra change to mail the letter using a booklet envelope in a 9 x 12 folder and include some other useful material at the same time.

Any way you choose to go, the cost will be more expensive than sending an email with a pdf attachment however the impact of your personal letter should far outweigh the added expense and effort required.

Direct Mail and Jobs in California

The unemployment rate in California is over 10% and higher than it has been in more than 60 years.  Yet there are still misguided people who want to kill the direct mail and printing industry.  How does the direct mail industry affect jobs in California?  Let’s look at the facts:

  • More than 49,000 people in California were directly employed in direct mail marketing in 2008.
  • The printing industry alone in California employs over 104,000 people and had over $16 billion in annual sales in 2008.
  • The paper industry in California employs more than 26,000 people and produces revenue of more than $9.2 billion.
  • Finally, the U.S. Postal Service employs over 74,000 people in California.

Let’s also keep in mind that every dollar spent on catalog direct mail in 2008 generated an average return on investment of $7.28.  Every dollar spent on non-catalog direct mail generated an average return on investment of $15.55 in 2008.

Direct marketing offers received in envelopes are noticed, opened, and acted upon.

Did you know that 75% of consumers say they are most likely to pay attention and act on direct mail sent to the home – over three times more than unsolicited e-mail, online banner or pop-up ads, sales calls to the home, and text message ads combined.  This is according to a 2006 study conducted by GolinHarris in collaboration with Insight Express and funded by the Envelope Manufacturers Association.

Other findings included:

  • Consumers, across all demographics, respond more positively to direct marketing efforts mailed to them in envelopes (41%) compared to postcards or self-mailer fliers (16%).
  • Women (45%), and those over the age 34 (44%), are the most responsive to direct mail offers received in envelopes.

When consumers receive envelopes in the mail containing marketing, advertising, or promotional material — the top three things they say they “always or usually do”:

  • Open the envelope if they believe the contents might be interesting (66%)
  • Open the envelope if they perceive contents will be of personal interest to them (61%)
  • Open the envelop if they can clearly identify the purpose/sender (59%)

The top types of merchandise consumers say they buy as a result of direct mailings that arrive in an envelope are:

  • Books  (43%)
  • Magazines  (42%)
  • Clothing  (40%)
  • Movies/videos/DVDs  (29%)
  • Music   (25%)

Take Away:

Consumers pay attention to direct marketing efforts, thus validating direct mail as a highly effective marketing tool.  Direct marketing offers received in envelopes are noticed, opened, and acted upon.

For more information link to Because It’s Personal: A Study of Consumer Use and Preference for Envelopes at the Envelope Manufacturers Association Foundation website.