The mailbox cannot live by ad mail alone. It needs other types of mail to boost ad mail’s effectiveness.

That’s the key finding from our recent white paper, Advertising Mail: Mail Mix Matters. The presence of a non-advertising mailpiece in the mailbox enhances the likelihood that a person will read, positively react to, and respond to a piece of advertising mail. Both First-Class Mail and Periodicals (such as a magazine) proved effective in driving those outcomes.

Advertising mail makes up more than half of Postal Service volume. Its revenues were $20 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2017, or 29 percent of total Postal Service revenue. Given ad mail’s importance to both the Postal Service and marketers, we sought to determine what factors enhance the three “R’s” of advertising mail effectiveness: reading, reaction and response. Working with RCF Economic and Financial Consulting, we analyzed five years’ worth of data from the Household Diary Study – an annual report USPS publishes on the contents of 5,200 households’ mailbox.

Other factors, of course, influence reading, reaction, and response. For example, the presence of a coupon was most important, significantly raising the reading, positive reaction, and response rates, with the strongest impact on the response rate. And the shape of the piece matters too. Flats are more likely to be read and generate a positive response than letters.

One surprise in our findings: First-Class transactions mail, such as bills and statements, proved a more important driver of household reading and reaction to advertising mail than correspondence mail, such as personal letters and business correspondence.

Our findings highlight the importance of promoting all segments of mail. The Postal Service should continue to support advertising mail, of course, but also work to increase First-Class Mail or Periodicals volumes – or at least slow their decline. The future of ad mail depends on it.

Do our findings surprise you? Do you have any theories on why the presence of other mail lifts ad mail?

Comments (3)

  • anon

    Bills mixed with Ad mail result in a better response rate for Ad mail. This is due to money pressure i.e. desperation. Personal letters also result in a better response rate but second to bills. Why is this? Receiving a personal letter lifts your spirits, making it more likely you will be optimistic. Optimism motivates but not as strongly as desperation. And personal letters lifting spirits is only one item on the list of ways writing and recieving letters improves your life. That list is something we should be making the general public aware of.

    Apr 28, 2019
  • anon

    Why do people read and react more to ad mail when bills are in the mix? Money pressure. When people feel money pressure they make worse money decisions. State lotteries depend on the poorer for sales because the poorer feel money pressure greater. When USPS employees feel money pressure they volunteer for OT (this does not make them happier). Ad mail has a very low response rate. Add bills, money pressure surges, and suddenly they may not be such bad deals (yes my opinion of ad mail is not good).

    Apr 23, 2019
  • anon

    First class mail is gone and not coming back. Because about all we have left are jury notices and IRS request for information the new younger generation residential customer never pulls mail from his box. With the postal service now offering informed delivery that transitional generation which used to pull its mail daily now allows mail to sit in their box for days as we fill the box to breaking its point. There is no fixing to be done technology has made us obsolete and we are left with a product that we force onto others with a jury summons slipped somewhere into what they cal junk and throw out.

    Apr 23, 2019

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