Schools of Opinions

People value something 24% more highly when they can see and touch it rather than just see it.

7 out of 10 people prefer to receive legal or banking information in the form of a letter. Just over one quarter of us are happy to receive such information via email. Less than 1% think a phone call or text message appropriate for formal communications.

Almost 50% of people prefer to receive sales information via a letter or brochure, closely followed by email, cited by 42.8%. Less than 7% like to receive sales information face-to-face.

Mail has a greater impact on the area of the brain associated with long-term memory, indicating that printed communications are more memorable. Mail has a 32% more powerful effect than email on long-term memory encoding (LTME) – one of the key metrics for advertising effectiveness - and a 72% greater impact than TV.

Mail also has a higher neuroscience engagement measure than other media, suggesting that people interact with mail and absorb its messages in a largely unconscious way. The neuroscience engagement measure for mail is 33% higher than for email and 60% higher than for television.

People value something 24% more highly when they can see and touch it rather than just see it.

A majority (57%) say that receiving  mail makes them feel more valued; only 17% feel the same about email

Almost two thirds (63%) of consumers take mail more seriously than email

People who receive bank statements through the post are more than twice as likely to correctly identify how much money is in their account as those who receive statements online (82% vs 32%)

Direct marketing campaigns that include mail are 27% more likely to deliver top-ranking sales performance, and 40% more likely to deliver top-ranking customer acquisition levels than campaigns without mail.

An average of 23% of all mail is shared between people in a household. 21% of promotions and special offers are shared.

Mail is kept in a household for an average of 17 days for advertising mail, 38 days for door drops and 45 days for bills and statements.

Taken from "Reasons to love mail" PRINT.IT, Spring 2015

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"On your 100th birthday you'd be disappointed if the Queen only sent you an email"

Send an offer letter by post and recipients will perceive it as worth more than if the same offer was sent via email. That's just one of the reasons printed mail is powerful and thriving. It’s opened, read, kept and is more relevant than ever.

"Giving, receiving and handling tangible objects remain deep and intuitive parts of the human experience."

What digital media hasn’t changed is people. We are still physical creatures that thrive on human contact and stimulation. Giving, receiving and handling tangible objects remain deep and intuitive parts of the human experience. In the never-ending stream of two-way virtual communication, sending a direct sensory experience of your brand can mark a pivotal moment in the customer journey.

In shared households 35% of promotional mail is passed on to others. Since the inhabitants of shared households tend to be younger, this has particular implications for mail. We have already found evidence that 15-34 year olds are:

  • 42% more likely to find mail memorable than the UK population as a whole.
  • 27% more likely to welcome it.
  • 71% more likely to trust the advertising mail they receive.
  • 21% more likely to have switched a supplier as a result of mail.

Mail also moves from person to person. Our follow-up survey identified that almost a quarter of mail (23%) is shared in a household – allowing for wider exposure of your brand message to new audiences.

From our own ethnography research we have video evidence illustrating how the tactile nature of mail can transmit brand values. In videos, participants openly discussed how layout and paper quality affected how they felt about the sender. One in particular admitted that they would irrationally choose a more expensive service provider based on the quality of their mailing. Peter’s analysis of the IPA Effectiveness Awards Databank identified that campaigns including mail were 27% more likely to deliver top-ranking sales performance and 40% more likely to deliver top-ranking acquisition levels than campaigns that didn’t. 


So it’s no surprise that when mail is added to an email campaign, with a longevity and impact higher than that of email, we could identify that 13% more consumers visited the sender’s website, 21% more consumers made purchases and 35% more consumers redeemed coupons or vouchers. 57% claim that receiving mail makes them feel more valued. Sending mail creates a more genuine two-way relationship between brands and consumers.

Taken from "The Private Life of Mail" by Royal Mail Market Research

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"Printed mail grabs attention, is considered and informative, makes recipients feel valued and gives a better impression"

In its report ‘It’s all about Mail and Email’, Royal Mail says that its findings have concluded that mail and email work most effectively when used together, and produce better results this way than when using either alone.

According to Royal Mail, consumers are very clear that mail and email have different qualities, which makes each suited to different things.  This is why 51% of consumers want to receive both mail and email from the organisations they deal with, while a further 17% only want to receive mail.

Email is perceived as being quick, informal, suitable for follow ups and easy to respond to, whilst printed mail grabs attention, is considered and informative, makes recipients feel valued and gives a better impression.

The research also found that mail better drives people to connect with businesses online.  As a result of receiving printed mail, 86% have connected with a business and 43% have downloaded something.  Above all, mail creates stronger emotional engagement between sending and recipient, with 57% of people saying that receiving printed mail makes them feel more valued.

A recent analysis by Peter Field on the IPA databank shows when looking at campaigns that delivered high sales performance, 27% more included printed mail than did not.  Also when looking at campaigns that drove high acquisition levels 40% more included mail than did not.  Furthermore, campaigns with printed mail achieved over twice (104%) the market share growth than campaigns without mail in the mix.

The great thing for print is that the research shows that as digital use grows, ‘the strengths of direct mail have increased’.  The report states, ‘mail delivers more cut through and is far more likely to be opened than email’ with 43% saying that they will make some interaction or follow up from a message within printed direct mail.

If these results are anything to go by, then yes, printed mail is still a relevant part of communications.

Taken from "Is there a Future for Direct Mail?" Print Solutions, February 2015

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"Traffic ran about 50% higher than normal for a week"

“But now, with everyone’s inbox overrun with marketing e-mails, everything has changed.”  The proof, he says, is in the 4% average response rate to LawnStarter’s mailings.

Consumers actually read the direct mail that arrives in their mailboxes.  79% of households say they either read or scan retailers’ advertising mail, according to the 2012 U.S. Postal Service.

Direct mail costs more than $600 per 1000 pieces, roughly 100 times the cost of sending out an e-mail blast to 1000 consumers, according to a Harvard Business Review report.  But the cost is not a barrier if the return on investment is high.

“Direct mail has more impact as name brand recognition increases”

“After a few years of building up the brand we decided to see if direct mail might work”
Entin then examined the site’s traffic before, during and after the mailing, to see if the postcards led to a bump.  In the first two or three days after the postcards arrived in recipients’ mailboxes traffic was almost double that of a typical day.  Traffic ran about 50% higher than normal for a week before subsiding.

Taken from "A new wave of marketers are using direct mail to generate traffic" by Scott Palmer on LinkedIn

"Several published studies suggest retention is better on paper"

One of the most interesting parts of the book is Levitin’s discovery that a great many of the dynamic and energetic captains of industry he met during his research swore by using and old-fashioned pen and paper, not digital calendars or electronic diaries.

In her autobiography Lean IN, Sheryl Sandberg, chief executive of Facebook, admits to carrying notebook and pen to keep track of her to-do list which at Facebook is “like carrying around a stone tablet and chisel”.

There is definitely something about paper that deepens focus.  If I’m stuck trying to word something on my laptop I pick up a pen and notebook and instead try to do it in longhand.  It usually works.  Thoughts and ideas somehow seem to flow more freely than when you’re staring at a screen.  Comedian Dawn French says she doesn’t use computers but writes everything longhand and in pencil so she can rub it out.  JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter books in various notebooks.  Levitin does the same when he’s trying to think something through and says the research supports the theory that it helps.

“The part of the brain in the moto cortex and affiliated areas that are required to write something by hand require deeper processing.  Certainly more than pulling something down off a menu and clicking on it” he says.  As you are writing you are thinking about what you’re writing and your mind is moving ahead in a “kind of daydreamy way, the thoughts are going off on their own.  That gives your brain the opportunity to discover links between things you didn’t see as linked before.  That’s where solutions to problems come in.  The very act of writing something down causes you to remember it better even if you throw the piece of paper away.”

It’s the same with books.  If you read one in paper form you’re likely to take more in than if you read it on an e-book reader.  Several published studies suggest retention is better on paper.  Levitin explains that the hippocampus, the seat of spatial memory, is what allowed our ancestors to repeatedly locate the same wells and fruit trees. 

That place memory also helps when you are reading.  “You are associating different places in the book with different thoughts”, he says.  “For example, if you read something meaningful in a book and want to go back to find it you can remember whether it’s a left-facing or right-facing page, whether it’s near the top or bottom.  With electronic books you don’t have those spatial cues.”

Novelist Jonathan Franzen says he dislikes the impermanence of e-books and famously said, “its doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” 

So are we limiting our imaginations by constantly focusing on gadgetry?

“I’m not willing to go that far because technology also saves us so much time,” says Levitin, “but it changes the way we work.  we may not think as deeply about things because we don’t have to. There is less at stake (if you know you can go back and change it).  If Tolstoy had a word processor would we have War and Peace?  Maybe not.  On the other hand maybe we would have had three more masterpieces; we just don’t’ know.”

Taken from "Multitasking? It's a myth. And your phone? It's making you stupid", The Times, January 27 2015

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Direct mail... can be viewed by the recipient at their leisure and which is likely to be read before deciding on whether to take action. This is in stark contrast to many marketing emails which are seen as 'spam' and are quickly deleted without opening, or perhaps transactional documents such as financial e-mails which some feel cannot be trusted to be genuine.

Recent surveys by Royal Mail Market Reach suggest that over 50 percent of participants want both mail and email in most market sectors and feel more valued when receiving a personalised piece of mail.

Booming demand for products such as direct mail is in stark contrast to growing frustration with digital marketing. This trend is coupled with the latest software, press, and finishing technology that has improved accuracy, flexibility, and personalisation scope. The result is a true renaissance in a sector that was once discounted as on the verge of implosion, and so if you had not considered it's merits until now, it is perhaps the perfect time to dust off those thinking caps.

Taken from "A hero awakes" an article for Printmonthly by Russ Hicks, March 2015

"they always sent it as a letter, not an email, because emails don't always get read"

I met someone quite senior at Microsoft once and they admitted that if they had something really important to communicate to staff they always sent it as a letter, not an email, because emails don't always get read. 

Taken from an interview with Tim Lewcock in Printweek, March 2015

"compared with other media, mail recipients experienced higher levels of emotional engagement and remembered more"

In today’s media landscape, brands and consumers are communicating in more diverse ways that ever before.  We wanted to discover the role that mail played in this new media ecosystem. 

One of the most interesting findings came from a neuroscience study.  Using a proven technique call Steady State Topography, we wanted to assess the impact mail has on the specific areas of brain functions that are known to correlate strongly with purchase and other commercial outcomes.  These are engagement, emotional intensity and long-term memory encoding. 

We found that, compared with other media, mail recipients experienced higher levels of emotional engagement and remembered more.  We also found that this effect was more pronounced if people had seen other communications from the brand before receiving the message.  Behavioural economists call this effect priming.

These findings make intuitive sense to us as consuming mail can be regarded as an immersive and tactile experience.  Indeed, our findings appear to us to be broadly in line with other studies that suggest, for example, that children retain more information if they read on a printed page than on a screen and a similar recent neuroscience study has been conducted by Twitter.

Of course, we understand that ROI is important.  That is why The Private Life of Mail contains more than one analysis that demonstrates that campaigns that include mail in the mix deliver a stronger return than those that do not.  

Taken from "Mail Recipients experience a greater level of engagement"  Jonathan Harman, Managing Director of Royal Mail MarketReach

"the excitement she felt when receiving mail"

When Sarah was younger, she lived abroad for a few years and can still remember the excitement she felt when receiving mail. Knowing the letter had originated in the hands of a family member or loved one living across the globe was pretty special. Many people admit to still having a box filled with old letters and if ever there was a fire that would be the first thing they would grab. Can the same be said for email? Nowadays most people receive so many messages that, by the end of the day, they can’t get rid of them fast enough!

Susan Shore for "Fall in love with letters again"

"Some marketers, such as retailers, are seeing dramatically higher response to their direct mail"

Some marketers, such as retailers, are seeing dramatically higher response to their direct mail than in the 1980s. Another bright spot is higher-income households, those earning $65K per year or more. Their ‘find it useful,’ ‘will read,’ and ‘will respond’ evaluations are up virtually across the board compared to 1987, according to household diaries.

Taken from "from the 2014 Statistical Fact Book, “Chapter 3: Direct Mail”

2015 will see the comeback of direct mail

Ironically, for the generations who’ve grow up on email, there’s a certain novelty to proper post. Have you heard of Not Another Bill? Truly personal post is now such a rarity you can subscribe to have your postman deliver surprise gifts each month. It’s an bizarre turn of events when the best way to reach your most technologically sophisticated audience ever might not be via their phone or inbox, but through their letterbox.

And that’s what the savvy brands are on to. For standout, for novelty, to allow people to literally feel something, for a touch of the unexpected, direct mail’s creative and targeting opportunities mean brands are doing the once unthinkable, and bringing mail back into the mix.

Taken from "2015 will see the comeback of direct mail" by Victoria Fox

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"Picking up a pen and paper can be therapeutic"

A recent New York Times article paid respect to the lost but found art of thank you notes. They’re right: sending a quick text of thanks does not fully express gratitude, nor is it as rewarding as writing a thank you note.

Making the extra effort to say thanks in a genuine, personal manner goes a long way.
It is pleasurable to do, and it encourages more of the same good behavior. In an age where most of us are staring at screens for most of the day, picking up a pen and paper and really thinking about what you have to be thankful for can be therapeutic too.

Taken from "Why we should all send more thank you letters" by Sir Richard Branson

Business benefits from sending cards

Sending cards to your business contacts reminds them who you are and what you do. Receiving your card will ensure your client knows you are taking a personal interest in them. It demonstrates that you value their custom and believe they are important to your business. Think about dropping one sales mailing and send a non-sales greeting card. I would like to bet you generate more goodwill and feedback from the greetings card! Good business is done via good relationships. People like to be set apart from others and appreciated for their custom and loyalty. Good customer service will always win over price with the right customers.

Taken from "Business Benefits From Sending Bespoke Christmas Cards"

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That personal touch.

Emails can be deleted, dismissed or even end up in your junk mail folder. But a postcard arrives with a clatter through your letterbox and has that personal touch: it has been written by hand, a stamp has been bought and stuck to it, and of course it has been carefully selected by the sender.

Written by Harry Mottram for Print Monthly July 2014 Edition

There is nothing more special than a handwritten note.

Calligrapher Sandra Grayson, who is self taught, put pen to paper at the London Stationery Show to show visitors to the Manuscript stand just how beautiful handwriting can be. (www.calligraphy.co.uk) 'There is nothing more special than a handwritten note,' she said. 'I taught myself how to write like this and I get pleasure from every single letter.'

Taken from Stationery magazine

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A handwritten letter is a welcome novelty.

Montblanc took 419 emails and had them re-written in elegant calligraphic hand, using a Montblanc pen. Then they mailed the letters to radio show hosts, journalists and bloggers, and let them do the talking. It was calculated that mentions of the letters by personalities who received them equated to $33,000 of free media. Better still, the topic of letter writing trended, with Montblanc leading the conversation. "What would you rather receive? An email? Or a handwritten letter? Exactly. We receive so few these days, they're a welcome novelty. Montblanc used this insight to generate valuable PR worth many thousands of dollars, using a simple direct mailing that cost only the calligrapher's time, and postage, to produce."

Written by MarketReach for Royal Mail

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People are sending more cards than ever before.

The greetings card industry is brushing off the threat from online, according to the boss of high street chain Paperchase. "People are sending more cards than every before", said chief executive Tim Melgund. "The price of a card is nothing compared to a cup of coffee but people value the time and effort it takes to write and send a card.

Written by Alex Lawson for The Independent

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Consumers are more likely to deal with direct mail immediately compared to email.

79% of consumers will act on direct mail immediately compared to only 45% who say they deal with email straightaway, research from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has found. Rachel Aldighieri, director of communications and insight at the DMA, said: "People continue to value direct mail and printed communications from brands, finding that it plays a seamless role within their connected worlds, offers some qualities not found in other comms and is an essential part of the overall 'brand experience'."

Written by Ishbel Macleaod for The Drum®

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Posting your invoices costs you less

Companies are pushing customers to pay their bills electronically. Many companies claim this method has environmental benefits, but we all know they are just after cost reductions. But is electronic invoicing really more cost-effect than paper invoices? A survey was carried out which found that 59& of customers receiving an invoice via email had to be sent a reminder, compared to 29& of customers receiving an invoice through the mail.

Written by Tom Rewolinski for the Western States Envelope & Label Blog.

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Did you know that red is a powerful colour with amazing marketing potential?.

Red stimulates appetite and increases food cravings, which is why restaurants use it so often. In fact, they call it Red Envelope Marketing. This strategy entices restaurant customers to come back more frequently. The Red Envelope Strategy can turn more customers into repeat customers.

Written by Steve Brocker for the Western States Envelope & Label Blog.

Try it for yourself

Handwritten notes are a rare commodity. They're also more important than ever.

Personal written notes grow rarer by the day. But if you want to convey to a client, a potential customer, a colleague, or a direct report that you value your relationship, put down the Blackberry and reach for a pen. Emails, tweets, texts or Facebook messages are easy to write and free to send. Handwritten notes mean more because they cost more. Drafting an actual letter involves selecting stationery, paying for stamps and visiting a mailbox. They let the people know you appreciate them enough to pause for 15 minutes and put pen to paper in an attempt to connect and sustain a relationship with them.

Written by John Coleman for the Harvard Business Review.

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Letters make us feel good!

Personal written notes grow rarer by the day. But if you want to convey to a client, a potential customer, a colleague, or a direct report that you value your relationship, put down the Blackberry and reach for a pen. Emails, tweets, texts or Facebook messages are easy to write and free to send. Handwritten notes mean more because they cost more. Drafting an actual letter involves selecting stationery, paying for stamps and visiting a mailbox. They let the people know you appreciate them enough to pause for 15 minutes and put pen to paper in an attempt to connect and sustain a relationship with them.

Adapted from 'A study comparing the psychological impact of sending and receiving letters v. emails' by Dr Simon Moore, Chartered Psychologist at the British Psychological Society.

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Envelopes are the 'missing' design element...

As a design agency with a thorough understanding of the power of marketing, it is clear that using the right envelope is crucial to the success of our campaigns. An often overlooked element of the design process, we have quickly learnt that not only are envelopes paramount to increasing response rates in direct mail, but are also fast becoming the 'missing' design element that ensures a marketing campaign is both unique and successful. We have seen a marked increase in the recognition of our mailings when using colour envelopes and have now adapted them as a key part of our marketing strategy.

A quote from Matt Hellier, Creative Director at Core Creative Limited

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