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December 6, 2007 / davebirss

Can you really compare email with Direct Mail?

Queen’s headOne of my colleagues left a copy of Brand Management magazine on my desk this morning open at an article about the role of digital within the Direct Marketing industry. That’s because I have quite a strong interest in this subject – I’ve done a lot of DM work in the last few years and I’ve recently been invited onto the Direct Marketing Association’s Creative Council to add a bit more digital know-how into the mix. And this article simply emphasised how most people completely miss the point.

The article was based on an interview with Antony Miller, Head of Media Development at the Royal Mail. It seems that they’ve just spent a load of money on research that compares attitudes to Direct Mail and email. They unsurprisingly found that a Direct Mail piece was far more likely to grab your attention, that emails are easier to file than bits of DM and emails are easier to respond to. Wow! I would have preferred it if they’d spent that money on building a postbox closer to my house. Or shortening the queues in my local Post Office. Mr Miller then goes on to make a sweeping generalisation:

“Digital will suffer from more and more clutter, and will see diminishing returns, with more and more companies vying for desktop space.”

Oh really? As far as I could see, the research was purely about email. So his statement is a bit like saying that the increasing volume of chinese takeaway fliers through your door will reduce the effectiveness of cinema advertising.

It’s all about appropriateness. You can’t compare email and mailshots on the same level. Just because they both have the word ‘mail’ in them doesn’t mean they’re comparable and fulfil the same duty. Any good marketer will know when it’s right to communicate with customers by post and when to use email. However, I’ve decided that I’ll expand on it anyway. Watch out for more on this in the coming days!


Leave a Comment
  1. Tony Attwood / Dec 6 2007 3:45 pm

    Comparisons between email and direct mail – and other forms of marketing (blogs, adwords etc) have for some time gone beyond this level.

    Take a look at for examples of analyses.

  2. davebirss / Dec 6 2007 4:25 pm

    Thanks Tony. And so they should have done.

    It doesn’t take too much marketing knowledge to work out when to use DM and when to use email. They are different media and have very different uses.

    I’m just surprised at such nonsense coming from the Royal Mail.

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