What can you learn from these big brands doing direct mail right?

For decades, direct mail has been a key component in the marketing strategies of small businesses and major corporations alike.  From local pizzerias to Fortune 500 companies, direct mail marketing has been a solid workhorse, holding its own against its digital counterparts. Now, creative new concepts and changes in technology are further helping direct mail redefine its image for easily distracted consumers in the age of the smartphone.

Direct mail fundamentals

Though design and targeting strategy have progressed over the last several years with the help of Big Data, when it comes to putting together a robust and effective direct mail strategy, marketers should still keep these core tenets in mind:

  • Make it personal: Don’t address mail to “Current Resident” or begin content with “Dear Sir or Madam.” Use the recipient’s name to drive a more personal connection from the get-go.
  • Appeal to buyer personas: Direct mail success hinges on getting the right information in front of the right buyers at the right moment. That means crafting content with different buyer personas in mind and making sure it gets delivered to the people who need to see it.
  • Segment the audience: There are a lot of different ways to segment your audience, including by geographic location, age, gender, previous purchases and frequency of purchases. Hone in on the demographics that make sense for your business.
  • Engage the recipient: However personal, segmented and tailored a piece of direct mail is, if it doesn’t catch the recipient’s attention, all of your effort will be for naught, so make sure to pique his or her interest.

It’s all well and good to see these rules laid out on paper, but how about some real-world examples?

Papa John’s and pizza-shaped mailers

Who says direct mail has to take the standard rectangle shape? Not Papa John’s. A few years ago, the pizza chain sent out triangular mailers that incorporated recipients’ names and a print resembling a slice of pizza on the front, asking “[Name], hungry for a slice?”  When consumers turned over the mailer, they found details about the company’s free slice offer.

image-0001.jpgWith this marketing effort, Papa John’s killed two birds with one stone: The unique shape and design attracted attention, and the personalization strengthened engagement.

USPS and augmented reality

Last year, as part of its promotional partnership with “The Amazing Spider-Man” franchise, the U.S. Postal Service integrated an augmented reality component into its direct mail. As detailed by Matt Haskell, corporate marketing manager at SourceLink, recipients were encouraged to download an app and then scan the front of the mailing.

When they did so, the static image of Spider-Man printed on the envelope promptly came to life, swinging across people’s smartphone screens before revealing details about the USPS’ new and improved Priority Mail program. What was the connection? The revamped, attention-grabbing Priority Mail promised to be speedy, agile and reliable – just like Spider-Man.


Ikea and pop-up bedrooms

[Source: Behance]
Ikea is known for its hefty catalogs, but that’s not the only thing the discount furniture store sends in the mail. A bland, manila envelope emblazoned with the words “Decorating your home has never been easier” doesn’t exactly sound like a revolutionary piece of direct mail – that is, until the recipient opens it and is treated to a miniature pop-up bedroom impeccably decked out with furniture and trimmings from Ikea, right down to the tiny storage boxes on the bookshelf. This piece was both engaging and interactive, appealing to the inner decorator in everyone. The lesson here? Sometimes the non-traditional route is the best one to grab recipients’ attention and leave a lasting impression.

How can SMBs stand out with their direct mail pieces?

What if your company doesn’t have a partnership with a major movie franchise or isn’t known for selling food with a distinctive and instantly recognizable shape? The real lesson to be learned from these examples of direct mail success is that enterprises should be creative with what they’ve got.

For instance, if you own a restaurant that’s famous for its pasta dishes, send a circular mailer with an overhead view of one of your plates printed on it. You might not be promoting free slices like Papa John’s, but you can still take a page out of the pizzeria’s playbook by personalizing the text on the mailing with the recipient’s name.

Run an auto shop? Try segmenting your list based on the type of vehicle your clients have. Send a mailer depicting a rare car to those who own luxury brands, or launch a campaign offering a discount maintenance plan exclusively to customers who bring in work trucks or vans.

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