BrainTrust Query: Junk mail isn’t so junky…

Discussion
Feb 10, 2010

Commentary by Doron Levy, president,
Captus Business Consulting

Through a special arrangement, presented here for
discussion is a summary of a current article from the CUEHub blog.

Anyone
noticed how many newspapers have closed up shop or drastically changed their
business model in the last 24 months? Look it up. It’s a scary number and it
points to the disturbing fact that print media is on its death bed. This has
major implications for the retail world as many retailers and independent merchants
rely on paper circulars or direct mail to get their message across. The explosion
of smart phone apps and social media has also added to the demise of print
media. Information can be delivered much faster and at much less cost over
the internet.

Bob Phibbs, business consultant
and author, agrees that direct mail is dead. “With people standing over their
trash as they sort the mail, it’s very hard to stand out,” he says about direct
mail. “It’s cost prohibitive and it’s mass communication in an era of personalized
interaction.” That is important to note because customer behavior is always
changing and only recently have we seen seismic shifts in buying habits sparked
by the recent economic crisis.

I have noticed a reduction in the amount of
direct mail pieces in my mailbox but I am entirely surprised by the quality
of the pieces themselves. Bob makes a good point but some of the pieces do
truly stand out from the pile (albeit a smaller pile). Why would retailers
and vendors invest more moneyin direct mail when most consider the vehicle
dead? (Bob’s not whistling Dixie when he says, ‘It’s
cost prohibitive.’)

On the other hand, did you happen
to notice how thick your Saturday or Sunday paper was over the holidays? I’m
not exaggerating when I say my five-year-old daughter had trouble with the
flyer bundle last December. In one week alone, I received four different Walmart
flyers and three different Toys R Us flyers. Local and independent merchants
seem to be putting out flyers more often as well.

I asked Marc Gordon, a marketing
expert, for his thoughts about direct mail and he covered some valid
points: “Direct mail is unique in the fact that it can be absorbed by the reader
on a much more intimate level than most other types of marketing. It has the
potential to be taken into the home, examined, read, studied and thought about,
possibly repeatedly by more than one member of the household.”

What about the
big pile of junk mail sitting on my desk? How would I ever get intimate with
that? “Of course this is all very much dependant on the material being visually
appealing, delivering the right message at the right time, and presenting an
offer that meets the needs of the reader. Missing even one of these traits
could easily result the in the material being discarded immediately,” he adds.

I had a strong
opinion about print media and direct mail but I have recently come back to
being on the fence. I believe in certain circumstances, direct mail and flyers
can be an effective way to market your brand. A strong focus is needed on social
networking to balance your marketing initiatives. It’s important to provide
value in your message in any way you market.

Discussion
Questions: What’s your view on the descent of print media as a traffic
driver? When do you see digital media (internet, smart phones, social
media, etc.) driving more customers to stores than print?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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13 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: Junk mail isn’t so junky…"


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Mary Baum
Guest
Mary Baum
11 years 3 months ago

If it happens for real, it will be because of the iPad and its successors. The more I think about it, the more I realize that a laptop is a clunky thing to have at the breakfast table, or on the sofa. And because it’s expensive and–at least mine is–hooked up to all kinds of peripherals at my desk, it’s a pain to actually move around with the way I thought I would when I first got it. So I don’t take it from room to room to be online while I watch television, except when I really, really want to.

But the iPad? Even at twice its size, I probably would carry it around the house. (As a designer, I’ve been dreaming of an artboard-sized one for 15 years.) Yet at the currently announced size, it fits into a lot of handbags that won’t hold a laptop.

So, finally, we’ll have an easy digital delivery system for the morning news.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

Newspapers are dying because no one is reading them. Direct mail will still survive but if it is not quality or relevant, it is going to end up in the trash. Electronic media is not going to cut it because it’s too much and too easy to screen out.

It is all going to be about being relevant and the development of a relationship with the consumer. If you cannot make these two a part of your marketing strategy, then you might as well forget it.

Mary Baum
Guest
Mary Baum
11 years 3 months ago
Now, that all having been said, let’s not get confused about what actual consumers like. And they like their printed catalogs, their advertising circulars and their printed newsletters. Even my digitally attuned teens. Is it harder to stand out than ever? Do we have to be relevant and timely? Do we have to enter the conversation that’s going on in their heads already? Do we have to solve problems they really have, in new and concrete ways? As in, can we find a way to give them the gift of their time back, even now that they have less money to spend than ever? Can we lighten their mood with something amusing and interesting, that’s not just a rehash of the same ten lame jokes they already saw online all day? Um, yeah. But the mail is the only place we have to show people something they’ve never seen before and pique their interest in something they didn’t know they needed. (Well, there and an Apple keynote. But I digress.) Now, as to the demise… Read more »
Marc Gordon
Guest
Marc Gordon
11 years 3 months ago

The death of print has been a topic of discussion for years. And while some prominent newspapers have gone under, it can be argued that was due as much to mismanagement as a refusal to adapt to changing technologies.

At the and if the day, I believe that people still like to hold print material in their hand. Being able to casually leaf through a flyer or magazine creates an intimacy with the material that cannot be attained through a computer screen.

W. Frank Dell II, CMC
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

Print media is slowly going down the tubes. The younger generation does not read newspapers. Only the over-50 age group reads a daily newspaper. This reduced readership results in less advertising and subscription revenue.

So far, the only print business model that is making money is the Wall Street Journal. Here they charge one price for the print version and give the online away or they charge a lower price for just the online version.

Our Sunday paper is three quarters circulars.

Depending on where you live, daily newspapers will disappear within 3 to 5 years. To survive, newspapers–like catalogs–must embrace the internet and charge a fee. Circulars should be a section if they want to continue collecting this advertising revenue.

Retailers have two choices. Joint advertising with a common website, or run their own website. Just how much money would they save by e-mailing their circular to frequent shoppers? Fact is, the digital divide will become one more target-market criteria.

Ben Ball
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

I think the editor’s question, as posed, misses the point on a technicality. Most common forms of digital media are not going to drive consumers to a brick & mortar store the way print does.

The reason digital media is driving print to the cliff is because it is interactive. It allows immediate query, response and yes, even order placement without leaving my chair. The very point is not to have to go to the store.

Mobile apps may well prove different as they are capable of contacting us at any time or place. With the help of Big Brother’s GPS system, one day they will even catch us in the store itself. But then we would already be in the store….

Mark Burr
Guest
11 years 3 months ago
Digital media will not be the primary source of marketing until there is a completed aging cycle in the market. However, it should be noted that the 50 and up crowd (that now includes Scanner himself) is becoming more and more adept at technology every day. The decline of print media–mainly newspapers–is not solely due to transfer to digital. It is equally due to content and mismanagement. Over the past 20 years–more so in the last 10 years–newspapers (the major newspapers) have carried their political editorial views into their entire content. Over time, readers have sought other forms of news as a result. Over that same period of time, 24 hour-a-day cable television news coverage has become one of the factors as well in the decline of newspapers. That change and the web news sources can not be overlooked in reasoning for their decline. Nevertheless, I would offer that the Sunday ads have always had a higher level of value than the Sunday news itself. When I return home on Sunday morning with a Starbucks,… Read more »
Lisa Bradner
Guest
Lisa Bradner
11 years 3 months ago

It’s a fascinating conversation: someone once said to me if we’d had computers first we’d think paper is really cool because “it’s lightweight, it’s completely portable, I can look at it even when electronic devices need to be turned off on the plane…” you get the picture.

Junk is junk and we’ve proved in record time that the less expensive the medium the more we can junk it up (see SPAM e-mails). As has been stated here, relevance is key but so is introducing someone to something they didn’t know they want, or wanted but had no idea you actually carried. We will always need to introduce new customers to us or to let old customers understand the new things we offer and, as many have pointed out here, paper can play a really valuable role in showcasing what we offer and driving someone to choose to engage with us online. Online is still a permission medium–direct mail can be a critical component in gaining permission to go farther.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

Just like online coupons, online advertising/promotions will not completely kill printed media. The far majority of people still desire to hold ancient FSIs, etc, in their hands. All the new devices in the world will not replace the feel of getting a discount with the promotional vehicle you are holding. We in the biz are all giddy over the latest gadget that will change the world. But a small percentage of consumers are utilizing their iPhones (AKA, “iPad Mini” LOL) for any sizable part of their shopping. Long live the FSI!

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
11 years 3 months ago

As retailers try to connect more on a local level, we’re also seeing more flyers and ads in local suburban papers. People expect the new flyers to be there, and save them for the weekend trips. Expect to see more media in play–phone apps, targeted newspaper circulation, more magazine ads taking you to their website to follow up a promo…all will find a level with certain shoppers’ groups.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
11 years 3 months ago

It seems to me that we’re in a difficult transitional moment for marketers. Traditional print media is losing its pull and very well may be dying and direct mail is increasingly thought of and treated as junk mail, but social media is not nearly far enough along the adoption curve to pick up the slack.

In an increasingly personalized age, impersonal marketing messages are increasingly easy to screen out. This presents a challenge for mass marketers, but opens up opportunities for smaller, niche retailers who can more precisely identify their customers and communicate with them in a more personal way.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
11 years 3 months ago
I’m amazed by the absolutes being tossed around in this discussion (you know who you are): “Newspapers are dying because no one is reading them.” Not true of course. “The younger generation does not read newspapers. Only the over-50 age group reads a daily newspaper.” Also not true. Readership ebbs and flows across generational lines and there are no absolutes. In my neighborhood the young couples subscribe to the paper’s “weekend package” Friday-Sunday. When I see young shoppers using traditional paper coupons in the supermarket, I know where they got them–newspaper and direct mail. You know, those media that NO ONE reads, especially the “younger generation”? Promotional media are simply adjusting to their places in the changing communication landscape. Newspapers will not “disappear within 3 to 5 years.” Direct mail will still be around, too. Have you ever watched shoppers at Bed Bath & Beyond? The majority use the 20% Off coupons the chain direct mails and inserts in newspapers. Some shoppers who’ve collected several coupons give them to other shoppers who have none. BB&B… Read more »
Matthew Spahn
Guest
Matthew Spahn
11 years 3 months ago
We can prognosticate but how about looking at some hard numbers. I ran an analysis utilizing ABC newspaper circulation data. From 2005 – 2009, the top 10 major metro daily newspapers decreased in circulation by 20% Sunday and 23% Daily. This is an average decrease per year of about 5-6%. The year to year rate of decline is increasing as Sunday: -3%, -5%, -6% and -8% over the 2005-2009 period. For Daily it is more aggressive as -3%, -3%, -7% and -12%. Even if these rates of decline pick up, it still seems like we are quite a number of years from extinction as so many like to predict. Another important metric is the growth of newspaper online. I saw a newspaper website increase of +10.5% or 73MM unique visitors/month. Right now online readers in the past 7 days amount to about 39% of avg Sunday/Daily print readers among top 10 metro dailies. Furthermore, my analysis suggests that there is about a 44% increase in non-print new newspaper website readers. Newspapers in print form will… Read more »
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