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DM Dead? Not by a Longshot.

April 7th, 2008 by Bob Bly

Lots of pompous pseudo-intellectual new media advocates talk almost daily about the rise of YouTube, Facebook, blogging, podcasting, RSS, and other electronic social media — and the demise of what they derisively call “intrusion marketing” — mostly direct mail, commercials, ads, and the like.

So to these young geniuses, I pose a question.

If social media and other forms of electronic two-way communication are making traditional “dead tree” media obsolete, why hasn’t direct mail — perhaps the most intrusive of the paper-based marketing media — disappeared?

According to the Winterberry Group, total U.S. direct mail spending in 2007 was $58.4 billion, an increase of 18.2% over the $49.4 billion spent in 2004.

What gives?

If “no one reads direct mail anymore” as one blogging consultant told me recently, why are advertisers spending more than $58 billion a year on it?

Are they insane? Do they love to throw away money?

Or is someone in this electronic era actually (gasp) opening, reading, and responding to advertising (intrusion marketing) sent through the U.S. Postal Service (an archaic, old-fashioned channel)?

Source: DM News, 3/31/08, p. 8.


This entry was posted on Monday, April 7th, 2008 at 3:10 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

51 responses about “DM Dead? Not by a Longshot.”

  1. Trisha Bartle said:

    Yeah, it’s not dead. People like to think that if there is some new way to do something, that the other ways just fall out of favor. Nope. DM isn’t dead because of online social media. Regular ol’ novels won’t die because of ebooks.

    It’s just a new way.

  2. Kristi Holl said:

    Nice to hear a voice of reason!

  3. Jodi Kaplan said:

    DM is not dead. In fact, the Wharton Business School recently released a study saying that many marketers find that print outperforms digital. Here’s the article.

  4. Dianna Huff said:

    Here is why people think DM is dead:

    Local dental office sends out poorly designed oversized postcard to “resident.” Headline on back side reads, “I’d like to see you again.” (I’m sorry, but I’ve never visited.)

    Front side of postcard is full of poorly written dense copy that lacks call to action and which is full of bio notes about the dentist and why he is so wonderful. (Who cares?)

    I immediately tossed it — as probably did everyone else who received it. Hence, campaign nets huge goose egg.

    That’s why people think DM is dead. Because businesses won’t pay a professional marketer to help them develop DM letters and other materials that drive leads.

    That’s my rant for the day.

  5. Michael A. Brown said:

    You called it, Bob! Some marketers think they can approach me and win my business with tactics they happen to think are very cool: “social networks,” “viral marketing,” “blogging,” and so on. And while I certainly respect those media, they do not “wow” me as much as their purveyors may believe.

    To me, the “wow!” comes not from the marketing medium, but from relevant, timely content that provokes and inspires a positive response. In the business model that informs my professional life, that is the definition of good direct marketing.

    Moreover, the communication theorist Marshall McLuhan was wrong: the medium is not the message. The message is the message. The medium may be cool, but a “yes” and closed business are even cooler.

    Michael A. Brown

    Business To Business By Phone

  6. Ed Gandia at The Profitable Freelancer said:

    Bob and Michael – Couldn’t agree more.

    I call my lawn service company and tell them I want greener grass this year. I don’t want to hear about the latest-and-greatest fertilizers. I don’t want to hear about soil conditioners and everything about aeration. And please don’t talk to me about Ph and lime and 10-10-10 blends.

    I just want greener grass!

    I’m so tired of all these gurus that fall in love with the medium. They preach all day long about their favorite medium or the coolest technology…and how the “old ways” of DM are dead.

    Yet they lose sight of the end goal: profitable results. And they make RSS, blogs, mobile advertising, YouTube and Facebook the goal.

    It’s precisely this myopic view that gives all marketers a bad name.

  7. Nick said:

    Thanks for the post. Sometimes I think I’m one of those pseudo-intellectuals–depending on the day–and I do find the rise of new media fascinating. Still, I do sort through the reams of paper that come into my mailbox each day basically because I don’t want to miss a bill. I resent the amount of it and the time it takes to deal with, but I keep up with it anyway. It pays off sometimes because I am able to run my house with a lot of the information on local people I’d never find otherwise. And paper credit card statements don’t get routed into your spam box, then missed and not paid. Obviously everyone has their own processes, but I think the reason DM works is because it’s such a straightforward model. A piece of mail comes. You have to deal with it or not. You might look at it in the process. You’ll certainly look at it more than you would a Google ad. It doesn’t rely on platforms or checking your RSS or being in the know. And in that way, with all its myriad annoyances, it’s refreshing.

  8. Dianna Huff said:

    But Ed, I have to say, I get much better results with the online medium than I ever did with DM. I’ve built a “platform” that answers questions for business people looking for consultants like me. It does work. In fact, a prospect just called me last week based on my blog.

    It’s not the medium per se. It’s what you do with it and who your audience is that counts. The dentist who sent me the terrible postcard could do a whole lot better with an optimized Website that sold his value and services versus a postcard touting his prowess (sp?) as a dentist.

    Relying on DM because it’s “pure” or not “new media” or whatever buzzword you want to use is just as myopic as stating all new media doesn’t work. It does work. Ask Bob — he has the numbers to prove it.

    (PS — Please do care about what you put in your lawn. Chemicals are bad for birds, animals, kids, and the water supply.)

  9. Mark said:

    Maybe DM is not dead yet, maybe it is and the advertisers just don’t know it. But I believe it will be very soon.

  10. Bob Bly said:

    Mark, 2 questions: first, what evidence do you have that DM will be dead, considering its 18% growth over the last 3 years? Second, what will marketers use instead?

  11. jOLY said:

    While there is a lot of what you describe going on, it is not as much as you paint. My wife is a drug rep in her 50’s (don’t worry, she won’t read this). Yes, she is attractive, but also highly educated and very professional. While some doctors may like to look at those young, gorgeous women you describe, in the long-term, they prefer professional reps who know how to answer the tough questions they pose. Looks won’t matter for long if the rep doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

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