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Dove Direct Print & Marketing Blog - “Print Marketing by the Numbers”

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Welcome to the Dove Direct Print and Marketing Blog. Today’s post, “Print Marketing by the Numbers” corrals various reports that suggest print’s direct mail marketing continues to be an impactful and powerful marketing medium. As of 2016, DMA reports that customer response rates increased a whopping 43% year-over-year!

If that’s not enough, DMA’s report also stated that prospect response rates rose slightly above doubling to a staggering 190% increase! While new data continues along the winding road of capture, analyze and release, odds are good that these trends will continue to climb, particularly in the age of digital un-trustworthiness.  While we reported some aspects of DMA survey results in past posts, today's post sheds even more light on print's numbers.


In a marketing world dominated by digital platforms, the rise in direct mail numbers represents a direct correlation between direct mail and digital information. To that end, this results in the ability to utilize browsing behavior and up-to-the-minute modeling to generate predilections that ensure direct mail is relevant and timely.

Neuro-Marketing Research

The value of data analytics is unsurpassed when attempting to grasp a more in-depth understanding of any subject matter. That said, the neuro-marketing research conducted by the DMA for direct mail produced three important statistics which align with the predictions mentioned in the book, “China's Megatrends: The 8 Pillars of a New Society [John Naisbitt, Doris Naisbitt].”

Most notable in the comparison of the DMA’s three statistical findings and mirrored in the book, Megatrends, whereby the authors predicted that we are moving towards a visual society in which visual instruction will surpass text based learning, we can examine here three notable comparisons highlighted in the DMA direct mail report:

  1. Boldness. Human attention spans last just 8 seconds. Therefore, marketing messages that contain attention-grabbing graphics have a much higher probability of cutting through the clutter and thus ensuring a higher probability of a successful outcome.

  2. Visuals Dominate. The human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster versus the time it takes the brain to decode text. Therefore, stories that can impact people with graphics and pictures is a must-have.

  3. KISS. (Keep it simple stupid) Humans cognitive fluency dictates that brain activity thirsts for ease and order. Therefore, direct mail collateral that provides a simple decision path with limited text and clarification will always test better.

The takeaway from these three aforementioned data points lead to the conclusions that for one, engaging creative visuals combined with pinpoint data accuracy is the balance for successful prospect attribution, and that two, insightful data incorporated into the physicality of print is a perfect match.

Direct Mail


According to the USPS, there was a negligible decline of roughly 2% in overall mail delivered. The reason behind the drop was attributed to better targeting and larger budgets directed to online initiatives. However, one of the upsides reported by the USPS Household Diary Study is the 3.9% increase (year-over-year) for people reading postcards in greater numbers.


Conversely, Marketing Sherpa reported that the two foremost reasons folks ignore direct mail is the overwhelming volume and not enough time to read. The conclusions of these reported statements may indicate a benchmark is unfolding in that consumers are turning away from detail.

As a result of this emerging pattern pushing consumers away from direct mail, marketers can take the steps to evolve with creative direct mail designs. Testing fresh approaches to cut through the cutter is a good starting point, followed by integrating sensory technologies that offer sensory stimulation, such as taste, touch, smell, sound and now even video playback systems. In short, the more tactile senses that can be made available, the resulting ‘embodied cognition’ will more than likely increase response rates.

Print Transcends Age Demographics


A very interesting data point derived from the Marketing Sherpa report is the miscalculation that print only works for the older market. According to the report, the following three data points dispel the notion that print is only appealing to the older market:



  1. All Inclusive. All age groups are interested in receiving and responding to mail.
  2. Response Rates. Response rates doubled for ages 18-21 in 2016 according to the USPS Household Diary Study.
  3. Specific Content. Unique age segments provide direct marketers with interesting challenges for communicating with unique age segments, which require specific content that connects with their generational prerequisites.

The Millennial Factor

The Quad/Graphics study obliterated yet another misnomer in that Millennials were considered direct mail intolerant. Their report left eyes wide open in that Millennials respond to direct mail over email, with 82% stating they would engage with retail print literature. It would appear that the tactile sensory qualities inherent in print raises stimulation. In addition, the Millward Brown scientific study supports these findings and further, their study utilized fMRI scanning techniques that were implemented to measure brain activity against exposure to print and digital marketing material.

The Effectiveness of Catalogs

2016 kicked off a banner year for catalogs, demonstrating the ability to drive engagement and sales. Quad Graphics Customer Focus reported findings that support that 2016 sales and engagement statement, whereby 30% of people surveyed indicated that a catalog recently drove them online to shop; with Millennials and Gen-Xers coming in even higher at a 38% clip, which was likely a contributing factor for the following marketing numbers:


  • 75% of marketers reported that they plan to prospect using a catalog over the next 12-months
  • 85% of marketers intend to maintain or increase circulation
  • 88% of marketers intend to maintain or increase page counts (Multichannel Merchant)

Catalog engagement numbers are even more revealing from both the USPS Household Diary and DMA reports. Catalogs have been around for decades, however the data gleaned from these two reports should make print marketers jump for joy:


  • USPS Household Diary Study study discovered that people considered catalogs to be the most interesting type of standard mail with numbers that surpassed newspapers and magazines by 31%!
  • The DMA/USPS combined study reported a 23% increase in overall response rates (USPS Household Diary Study), although there was a 4.5% decrease in catalogs mailed (DMA).

Catalogs are clearly one medium that can be called the clutter cutter and the numbers have supported the notion that catalogs are an outstanding engagement mechanism that generates brand mind-share, and that drives sales, both online and offline.

As customer intelligence continues to permeate the marketing solution mix, direct mail and notably catalogs will continue to become more apropos for marketing overall.

The Net-Net

The stats reported here in “Print Marketing by the Numbers” are eye opening and exciting to say the least.  Direct mail, postcards and catalogs are the way to go for any marketing mix, and further, these print marketing tools drive both offline and online engagement rates.  We contend that trends can vary over time. However, trends generally take time to realize upward or downward trajectories and thus present a snapshot in time.  What trends don't do is fall off the leader-board in an afternoon, or in a year for that matter.  The digital trustworthiness debacle will continue to focus on meeting those challenges, and while that scenario plays out, printed marketing collateral is becoming more relevant in the marketing mix.  It's no longer, 'who do you love,?' but moreover, 'who do you trust?'  Happy Direct Marketing Development!

Let’s have a conversation about direct mail strategies, printing, print software, transactional documents, variable digital printing, brand equity and unified marketing collateral during our next Open House. We invite you to join us on Thursday, May 31st, 2018, from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Let us show you how to improve your document processes to optimize your workflow, reduce your costs, and maximize your organization’s printing, letter shop and mailing capabilities. Dove Direct does have an official USPS certified bureau located within our offices that will save you time and money. And, if you bring us your files, we will create a demo file for you. For more information call Carla Eubanks at 404-629-0122 or email Carla at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Dove Direct, your Atlanta based print and mail solutions provider offers organizations end-to-end data, printing and mailing solutions: Data Management, Variable Digital Printing, LetterShop and Fulfillment, Fully Automated MLOCR Presort Bureau, Marketing and Production Management Support and Secure Data Life Cycle Management.

If you don't want to wait for the Open House, you can reach Dove Direct today by calling 404-629-0122 or use the contact form for Dove Direct.

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Leland Hicks is the CTO of MatterMax Media, a digital marketing agency that provides business strategy, web design, social media management and training.  He can be reached at lahicks@mattermaxmedia.com