Is direct mail dead? Nearly everyone on the planet is reachable electronically these days, right? So why would you keep forking over cash for the printing and postage of actual printed advertising? The big players all do it. Grocery ads, back-to-school big-box ads, home improvement store ads all arrive in our mailboxes every week. They must work, or those prominent retailers would not continue to invest marketing dollars in them. Okay, you say, but if you’re talking about millennials and direct mail, surely it’s passé.

Except it’s not. The United States Postal Service has brought together a ton of research to show why. Granted, they have a vested interest in keeping the physical mail stream flowing, but the sources they cite are well respected.


“The Center for Neural Decision Making at Temple University’s Fox School of Business found that our brains process digitally delivered information faster than physical versions, and therefore people spend more time with mail pieces.”


The data on millennials and direct mail

Here are some numbers for you to chew on from the USPS white paper:

  • 84 percent of millennials look through their mail
  • 77 percent of millennials pay attention to direct mail advertising
  • 87 percent like to receive direct mail
  • 57 percent have made purchases based on direct mail advertising they’ve received

Millennials disregard digital

Half of millennials now ignore digital display ads. They’re old hat.

Only 15% ignore direct mail. Think about it: In this era of instant communication and constant connection, physical mail once a day is a novelty and more of a sensory experience – you touch it, unfold it, hear it crinkle – than what our screens offer up.

Direct mail’s brain effect

The USPS white paper also cites brain science that supports the wisdom of reaching people with physical advertising. In partnership with the Center for Neural Decision Making at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, the Post Office found that our brains process digitally delivered information faster than physical versions, and therefore people spend more time with mail pieces.

Physical ads also do a better job of triggering brain activity related to finding something desirable. Our response tends to be more emotional and we tend to remember longer what we’ve seen.

Millennials and direct mail = bigger ROI

What about that cost factor to print and send direct mail? Turns out direct mail’s ROI is about the same as that of social media marketing, and it’s higher than the ROI for paid search or online display ads.

Done well and consistently – think top of mind — direct mail can be an important part of a business’ coordinated marketing strategy, depending on the types of products or services it offers. To use it effectively, you just have to know your market, speak their language, provide something they find valuable and relevant, and design your mailer to appeal to them.

bringing direct mail back

Design direct mail for millennial appeal

Direct mail rises or falls on design and content. The USPS white paper suggests several millennial-friendly preferences to keep in mind when creating your mailer:

Incorporate digital features

This demographic might like physical mail, but they’re still digital natives. You’d like them to engage with you further, so include ways for them to do that, such as QR codes or near field communication (NFC).

Make it look clean

Consider using other sensory features, too – a bit of texture variation, or even scratch and sniff if that fits with your offer.

Keep your message simple and clear

Small bites of information will go a long way and encourage further investigation.

Be real

Millennials don’t trust hard-sell messages or puffery. (For that matter, do you?) What immediate, yet introductory, value can you give them? Include an offer or invitation of some kind. Direct them to your website to complete a survey and get a discount, or just offer a discount code.

Appeal to their compassion…

…and focus on making the world a better place. If you are exercising corporate responsibility through social enterprise or giving back, let them know, while all the time remembering the previous point about authenticity.

Be cautious with slang

Speaking their language does not require slang. Your usage of it may or may not be current, and even if it is, it can come across as patronizing, which is not the tone you’re going for. When in doubt, don’t.

Think millennials and direct mail might be a match for your company?

Do you market to millennials? Let’s talk. We’ll help you explore direct mail’s potential for engaging them and can work with you to design a quality piece. Contact us at 720-722-2987 or click the blue button below to request a meeting with our team.

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