April 3, 2014 (RARC-IB-14-001)

Hard copy communications, and mail specifically, are not not the relic some claim them to be.  Mail can still create a powerful connection with people of all ages. This is especially true when it is well designed and digitally interactive. Although senders pay for mail to be sent, catching recipients’ eyes determines the value of the communication. Without consumer interest in mailpieces like direct mail, catalogs, or bill reminders, the mail value chain breaks down.

The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) hosted a discussion forum with marketing, communications, and mail industry experts to discuss ways mail could be made more valuable to the recipient. The forum consisted of three parts. First, the OIG discussed the findings from its whitepaper that spurred the forum, Enhancing Mail for Digital Natives. Then, research highlighting the utility of mail and emotional connection to hard copy communications was illustrated through a number of European studies. Finally, there was a panel discussion among industry leaders about how mail can be made more effective in today’s omnichannel marketing campaigns.

The OIG’s past work shows that Digital Natives, aged 16-25, appreciate mail when it is personalized and has a useful connection to the digital realm. Digital Natives are gaining market power, and will soon outnumber baby boomers. As their influence grows, marketers’ ability to meet their expectations will become increasingly important.

The European research presented showed that hard-copy advertising creates a stronger emotional response than digital advertising. Another European study showed that the total cost of sending hard copy bill reminders through the mail was less than those sent via e-mail.

The panel discussed mail’s role in omnichannel campaign strategies, how personalizing can affect the success of a campaign, and demonstrated new technology like near field communication and augmented reality, which create a seamless integration between physical mail and a digital experience. There is strong interest among printers, marketers, and advertisers to incorporate this technology into traditional direct mail. Companies should take advantage of dropping prices of physical-digital technology and personalizing capabilities to create mailpieces that recipients truly value.

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