Millennials spend a large part of their day looking at phone and laptop screens, tuned into social media, and living in a digital world. As a result, many companies believe that digital marketing is the only effective way to target this incredibly important consumer demographic. However, direct mail marketing is actually one of the most viable and proven strategies to target millennials.
A variety of studies have concluded that millennials favor and even enjoy receiving direct mail. InfoTrends conducted a survey finding that while only 26% of millennials prefer email marketing, 38% prefer direct mail pieces. In addition, millennials are more likely than any other generation to read their mail, in great part due to the fact that they actually enjoy receiving mail; in fact, this study found that 25% of millennials consider reading direct mail a leisure activity. The USPS found that 47% of millennials look forward to checking their mailbox each day, which Harris Diamond, CEO of the global advertising network McCann, affectionately refers to as “The Mail Moment.” It’s important that companies attempting to target millennials effectively tap into this moment.
Not only do millennials like to read their mail, but they also pay closer attention to it than any other age demographic. In 2016, the USPS found that 40% of millennials read direct mail thoroughly, compared to only 18% of non-millennials. They also discovered that millennials spend more time reading mail compared to other generations: an average of 9.7 minutes each day, compared to 7.9 minutes for Generation X and 8 minutes for Baby Boomers. These reports illustrate that millennials are extremely likely to engage with direct mail marketing material.
These data-backed conclusions may still seem counterintuitive in a world dominated by digital media and marketing. However, it helps to understand the psychology behind direct mail versus digital marketing. Studies show that millennials spend 18 hours a day consuming media, and are thereby constantly inundated by pop-ups, banner ads, and other forms of online advertisements. Direct mail’s tangibility provides a sharp contrast to the fleeting world of digital advertising, and this helps it stand out and make a positive impression.
Moreover, market research firm Millward Brown conducted a study using MRI technology to see how the brain reacts to different forms of marketing materials. Their neurological research concluded that tangible marketing materials leave a deeper impact on the brain and produce more brain responses connected with emotions, which suggests greater internalization. In this way, direct marketing material is often more effective because it generates longer lasting and more significant reactions than those delivered in a digital format.
It is important to remember that although millennials are interested in and influenced by direct mail, their time is still spent primarily online. One tactic that increases the effectiveness of direct mail marketing is transitioning the reader from direct mail to the internet. Technology such as QR codes and scannable coupons are effective with younger generations because they enable the reader to engage with the direct mail and be instantaneously linked to the website they’re looking for.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, direct mail marketing is still an extremely effective marketing medium for millennials, especially when used in combination with digital channels. The truth is this: in a digital world of intangibles, millennials savor their “mail moment” each day and are easily enticed by direct mail to engage and take action.