Direct Mail

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Direct Mail Marketing

Although direct mail volumes such as catalogues, and brochures continue to climb across Europe. In fact, spending on the strategy has been increasing since 2009.

Despite all the digital alternatives, direct mail is still a strong contender in the advertising scene[1] . Its relevance has never waned and may have even improved.

Direct mail is far from the be-all and end-all strategy in marketing. On the contrary, its unique qualities make it more effective as a complementary strategy in the increasingly digital world.

This article will discuss the benefits of direct mail marketing. It will also look into the known disadvantages of the strategy and provide tips on how to address them or capitalise on them.

What is Direct Mail Marketing?

Direct mail marketing is as straightforward as it sounds. It is a form of advertising that takes advantage of printed materials like letters, brochures, flyers, and coupons to inform and encourage target audiences to perform a call to action. These printed marketing materials are delivered using the postal service.

A lot of businesses in several industries use direct mail marketing to promote their goods and services. This is especially true for local businesses targeting their immediate geographical area.

Alongside today’s technologies, such as data-driven advertising and internet integration, direct mail marketing has never been more relevant.

Advantages of Direct Mail Marketing

While many of the advantages below are timeless and have always been associated with direct mail marketing, some are only possible because digital counterparts now exist.


Consumers consider direct mail more personal than alternative online interactions. There is something about opening a piece of mail addressed to you that can’t quite be replicated in the digital world.

Also, the additional costs of direct mail marketing demand that more thought must be placed into every single package. This means these letters are more targeted and will directly appeal to the needs and pain points of the recipient.

Direct mail can target specific customers based on factors like geographical locations, buying behaviour, and demographic data. With this information, marketers can customize each package to suit each recipient.

print marketing


The tangible nature of direct mail makes it more memorable, especially compared to emails[2] . This is because they provide physical visual cues even after the letter or brochure has been put away, unlike emails after the message has been closed. In fact, according to award-winning marketer Neil Patel, having objects like coupons around when deciding which product or service to purchase can push the consumer towards the desired direction. 

There is also value in the novelty of direct mail, in an age when companies are heavily focusing on digital marketing. This novelty also improves the customer’s retention of the brand and its products and services. According to Newswires, direct mail marketing enjoys response rates of up to 4.4%, while email only gets 0.6%. This is a reflection of how memorable this strategy can be.


One of the most important qualities of any marketing strategy is the ability to measure its success (or failure). With direct mail marketing, this can easily be done, especially if there is a call to action that is specified.

A store that sends out coupons, for example, can ask their customers to bring these coupons for a discount in their next purchase. That store can then accurately gauge the success of their direct mail marketing campaign based on the number of coupons they sent out compared to the number of coupons that were used.

Having these insights will help inform all future marketing campaigns, even those conducted online.

Bigger Reach

It is true that more people use the web for more purposes today, with 65.6% of the world’s population now with internet access, not all potential customers are online.

This is more applicable for businesses that cater to certain demographics like the elderly or those living in areas with limited internet access. Enterprises that focus more on their local area will also be able to better interact with their target audience with direct mail marketing. 

When used together with digital marketing strategies, direct mail marketing also allows businesses to cover more ground. According to the Globe Newswire, up to 85% of direct mail gets opened, while emails are only opened 16.97% of the time on average according to Smart Insights.


Direct mail marketing offers businesses more room to add information on their letters or brochures. Compared to emails and online advertising that are designed for quick interactions, recipients can take their time reading direct mail. This allows marketers to include relevant information about their products, services, location, and more.

There is also room for creativity in direct mail[3] . While emails are only numbers and letters on a screen, direct mail marketing provides the opportunity to send out packages that can better cater to the target audience and express the business’s strengths.

A local printing company, for example, can send out beautiful brochures printed on special material. A hardware store can send out small tools to returning customers. These tactics cost more, but they will showcase what the business is about in ways that cannot be done online.


Cybersecurity is a growing threat among businesses and consumers. People are increasingly wary of scams and other fraudulent activities online. These deceptions still exist offline; people are generally less exposed to them, compared with when they’re on their computers.

Sending out direct mail improves consumer trust. Coupons, for example, are more reliable when sent via direct mail. Consumers know that they can use the coupon only when they visit the store. Coupons and links online can lead to any number of different paths – many will just refuse to take that chance.

Direct mail is also an excellent way to point out that the business has a physical store. This makes the enterprise more trustworthy in the eyes of a consumer.

Direct Mail marketing

Perceived Disadvantages of Direct Mail Marketing

Direct marketing is not perfect. The following are the most common objections against direct mail marketing and some tips to address them.


When direct mail marketing, or direct marketing in general, is discussed, there is sometimes a sentiment against its irritating nature. This is a reasonable objection since consumers are saturated with a constant barrage of advertising material. At one time it may have been perceived that consumers may find direct marketing annoying and ignore it altogether, but in our modern world however, this is more likely an issue for the overcrowded digital marketing space.

That said, there is a way for direct marketing to be less troublesome and even be welcomed. This Medium article imagines a scenario where direct marketing can be used to give the consumer exactly what they need, the moment they need it. Because of this, the consumer welcomes the marketing tactic and becomes a customer for the business.

This relational approach can be achieved with direct mail marketing through more informed and targeted campaigns. By sending out direct mail only to consumers who have previously shown interest in or have previously purchased from the business, the letters, brochures, or coupons will likely be welcomed. In this situation, direct mail is used to establish a relationship between the business and the consumer instead of forcing advertisements.


Another reasonable objection against direct mail marketing is its perceived added costs. It is definitely cheaper to send out emails compared to physical packages. However, that is not the entire story.

While there are little to no initial costs involved in online marketing tactics, their response rates are five to nine times lower compared to that of direct mail marketing. Every penny invested in direct mail will have a higher probability of turning a profit in the future.

There are also more cost-effective methods of doing a direct mail campaign. Stores can streamline their strategy by using updated printer technology, marketing data to narrow down their targets, and trigger-based mailing to conserve resources and even lessen intrusion in the process.

According to Business Insider, direct mail marketing can even lower the cost of personal selling when done right.

sustainable packaging

Not Friendly to the Environment

The modern consumer is more conscious about sustainability compared to any other time in history. Using actual paper to deliver advertising is often perceived as damaging to the environment, but in fact paper is a highly sustainable marketing method as paper is recyclable.

In fact, these tactics have become more popular in recent years with companies like Apple committing to their carbon footprint reduction campaigns. They have famously made several changes including switching to more sustainable packaging[4] .

According to The Guardian, paper has incorrectly experienced a bad rap in recent years and the paper-making process has become, in fact, extremely sustainable. The article continues to explain how digital media, with its use of consumer electronics, also produces a non-negligible carbon footprint.

Integrating direct mail into an overall marketing campaign – one that includes digital strategies – will also reduce its carbon footprint. Businesses can initialise interaction with direct mail and then steer consumers towards online channels for more. This takes advantage of the best qualities of both media.


Direct mail marketing is as relevant as ever because it can be personalised, memorable, and insightful. It also allows for bigger reach, especially when used with online strategies. It builds trust with consumers. Businesses can easily gauge the success of each direct mail marketing campaign as well. 

Direct mail marketing can avoid being intrusive if the campaign is more informed and targeted. It can overcome added costs by streamlining the process and narrowing down the target. It can also become more eco-friendly by using sustainable materials [5] and using it to complement digital strategies.

For more information about direct mail marketing advantages and disadvantages, explore our other resources or reach out to our team. Simply fill out the form on our contact page and we will get in touch with you. Duplo International provides automated and easy to use finishing solutions for the print and digital packaging market, by automating complex manual processes and connecting finishing solutions to your print production environment, we simply help you produce more, with less.

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