Advertising’s secret weapon

At the 2015 IPC Annual Conference, keynote speaker Brian Fetherstonhaugh, Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy One Worldwide, gave an insight into how direct mail can and should be used to generate more business and gain a rapport with customers. IPC believes along with the CEO of OgilvyOne that advertising’s secret weapon is still direct mail. Ogilvy’s founder in the 1970s and ‘80s said: “Direct Mail is my first love and secret weapon.”

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At the 2015 IPC Annual Conference, keynote speaker Brian Fetherstonhaugh, Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy One Worldwide, gave an insight into how direct mail can and should be used to generate more business and gain a rapport with customers. 

IPC believes along with the CEO of OgilvyOne that advertising’s secret weapon is still direct mail. Ogilvy’s founder in the 1970s and ‘80s said: “Direct Mail is my first love and secret weapon.”

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The rate of advertising mail decline has slowed down and remains a highly valued marketing channel. In the US, mailbox composition has changed, with direct mail now accounting for the majority of mail.

Direct mail is also seen positively by consumers. Survey upon survey show that consumers react positively to direct mail and find it inspirational. For instance, 87% of all Belgian mail is opened and read, while 65% of US respondents purchased as a reaction to admail and 40% of Canadians keep catalogues for at least a month. Compared to other media, direct mail delivers the highest response rate: 3.7% compared to 0.2% for online display and 0.1% for email and social media campaigns. And it remains a valued channel for younger, digital-native generations of consumers: among millennials, direct mail is 82% more trusted compared to digital channels.

For more information on consumer attitudes towards direct mail, check out the IPC Direct Mail Guide

More and more consumers are online – in the US, the percentage of internet users of the total population has more than doubled in 15 years’ time. E-Commerce continues to grow, with double-digit growth year after year. 

There are new opportunities for postal operators to promote the use of direct mail and catalogues to drive e-Commerce growth. Direct mail is used by leading internet companies and e-retailers to effectively reach out to their customers. Probably the best way to counter the perception barrier in regard to spending money on direct mail is to talk about the big names in technology who are using direct mail, such as Zalando, Amazon and Google. The last six months have shown examples of both Amazon and Zalando experimenting with sending physical direct mail and catalogues.

Technology is changing at an unseen pace – along with mobile internet, smartphones have radically changed consumer behaviour. These new technologies influence how consumers interact with brands and offer new opportunities for marketers to reach out to current and potential customers. The combination of direct mail with these new technologies can be a great driver of e-Commerce, by effectively reaching out to consumers and triggering them browse, research or buy online. 


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A whole new range of tools has been developed in the past decade to help direct mail campaigns stand out and trigger a reaction. Nowadays, marketers can use any of the following interactive tools: digital printing for customised mailings; QR codes, Augmented Reality and personalised URLs for an effective link to online resources, and built-in screens and water- or heat-reveal features to play with the consumers senses. Moreover, marketers have an unequalled amount of consumer data at their disposal to ensure the can reach the right target at the right time with the right message. For more insight into the direct marketing innovations used on the market, visit IPC’s Direct Marketing case study library.

There’s a reason why direct mail is highly valued by consumers and continues to show impressive response rates. It and appeals to consumers’ senses and is able to develop a more meaningful relation between brand and customer. New technologies are being developed constantly, ensuring advertising remains relevant in the 21st century. This is why leading internet companies continue to use direct mail. This is why Brian Fetherstonhaugh called direct mail ‘advertising’s secret weapon’.

IPC’s direct marketing resources

Direct marketing is a key focus area for IPC in defending the core business of postal operators. To support this business, IPC provides research, analysis, case studies and a direct marketing online community for postal professionals.

IPC has developed the IPC Direct Mail Guide, which is aimed at helping marketers prepare successful mailings as part of cross-channel campaigns to increase response rates and deliver on your objectives. The DM Guide was updated in order to keep track of the new developments and innovative campaigns in the marketing sector. With additional sections on technology and campaign measurement and an updated case studies selection, this update provides new insights into the trends in direct marketing. The publication was created in collaboration with IPC members and is publically available.

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To promote the use of direct mail as part of a cross-channel marketing approach, IPC has been collecting interesting, innovative and inspiring case studies of how direct mail can be used in combination with other media. With more than 50 case studies from across the world in sectors such as automotive, financial retail and non-profit, this case study library provides a good overview and inspiration for marketing experts.

IPC also provides an online platform for postal experts from across the globe to share direct marketing experience. This collaborative discussion platform – PostBoard Direct Marketing – provides postal direct marketing professionals from Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand the opportunity to interact, discuss and learn from each other within an online environment. Topics discussed include product development, innovation, industry awards and case studies. This community brings together around 100 postal experts from countries around the world.