Print Production Spotlight: Defining Print’s Role in Modern Direct Marketing

An Internet information company seeking to boost response rates and drive traffic to its website was reluctant to use direct mail. After the campaign generated so-so results in numerous online channels, however, a direct mail test produced the highest response rates and the most stickiness of any medium they used—even for the coveted new-media generation of 18- to 35-year-olds.

The moral: “Sometimes you find a role for print in the areas you least expect it,” says Matthew Downey, vice president, Anderson Direct Marketing, agency to the aforementioned Internet information company.

Many marketers still have high expectations for printed direct mail. The Winterberry Group projects spending on direct mail to increase 5.8 percent in 2011 to $47 billion dollars, more than any other direct or digital advertising category. This would be the second consecutive year of growth, following three years of decline.

“Print is alive because you can create an integrated mix that is relevant to the person you’re targeting,” says Alan Scott, member of the CMO Council Advisory Board and former senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Enterprise Media Group, Dow Jones and Co. “Print plays a vital role, but it’s different than it used to be.”

Print Is in the Mix
The mean number of media used in today’s direct marketing campaigns is three, according to market research and strategic consulting firm InfoTrends. A recent test conducted by the Xerox 1:1 Lab demonstrated the role that relevant, personalized print can play in these campaigns.

The 1:1 Lab program runs tests comparing the results from a traditional direct mail campaign to the same campaign with customized messaging that is relevant to each recipient. In tests run in multiple industry vertical markets, the customized messaging has consistently delivered positive results. Highly regarded direct mail leader Reader’s Digest Canada as much as doubled response rates with a more personalized approach.

A recent lab test dramatically boosted enrollment in Miami University of Ohio‘s honors program. In the test, conducted jointly with direct marketing provider b+p+t communication solutions, nearly identical multimedia campaigns using direct mail, PURLs and email were sent to two groups of 20,000 randomly selected prospective students. One group’s campaign applied relevant content based on students’ interests, while the control piece limited personalization to basics, such as name and address.

The data-driven campaign generated a 1,466 percent greater response rate than the control and a 6,000 percent increase in targets converting to prospects. Seventy-six percent of PURL visitors had received the personalized mailer. Campus visits increased by 32 percent over the previous year, reaching capacity and thereby shutting down promotions early. The incoming class size was 31 percent larger than the school’s goal, and 90.5 percent of the enrollees had received the data-driven mailer.

Results like these have convinced many enterprises to include print in multichannel marketing. Universal Pictures puts most of its budget into broadcast, but “Print is seeing a resurgence since digital [printing] came into play,” says Doug Neil, senior vice president, Digital Marketing, Universal Pictures. “There are touch points with consumers in all different media. We’re making sure all our touch points are covered.”

Driving Better Responses
One reason direct mail makes such strong contributions to multi-media campaigns is that today’s more relevant, personalized print drives better response rates than the static and “Dear Frank” personalized pieces of the past. Where average direct-mail response rates long hovered at about 1 percent, the 2010 DMA Response Rate Trend Report found letter-size envelopes generated on average a 3.42 percent response rate for a house list and 1.38 percent for prospects.