Direct Mail Makes an Impact on Generation Y

There’s a large, highly educated, influential segment of the population that likes to spend and is receptive to direct mail. They’re the young consumers who make up Generation Y, and if you’re not engaging them yet, it’s time to start. This group — also known as Millennials — is widely thought to rival the Baby Boomers in size.

“From a branding perspective, we know that Gen Y’s are now making brand decisions that will stick with them for a long time,” says Jason Ryan Dorsey, author of Y-Size Your Business.  “These are decisions in everything from technology products and automobiles to consumer packaged goods and apparel.”

“A recently completed study showed that if you’re marketing packaged goods like soap or beverages, it’s much more likely the kids are going to be making the decisions about what to buy for the household, and if it’s a tech product for sure,” says Lamont Swittenberg, managing director at Luminosity Marketing, a New York–based analytical marketing communications firm.

But the tech-savvy, diverse group isn’t making it easy for marketers to reach them. “They’re more tech savvy and more comfortable with technology than previous generations, and they’re essentially on the go,” Swittenberg says. “Because they are difficult to reach you have to execute an integrated marketing campaign to surround them with different touch points.”

Considering only social media and e-mail in an integrated campaign, however, may prove shortsighted. Mail is effective, too. “Sending something by direct mail is a way of breaking through the clutter because they do receive so much communication that comes digitally,” Swittenberg says. “And you still can’t replace the personal touch from direct mail.” A survey from interactive marketing provider ExactTarget found 75 percent of people ages 25 to 34 have made a purchase resulting from direct mail.

“The leap for marketers is to recognize the different lens Gen Y applies to reading their mail and adjust the marketing message to make those Gen Y differences a measurable advantage,” Dorsey says. For instance, Millennials prefer pictures and directions to online video rather than long blocks of text or fancy words, he says. This group also wants to see people like themselves represented in the marketing material, Dorsey says, and preferably in candid shots.

Elizabethtown College sends mail to young alumni as part of a yearlong integrated fundraising strategy that also includes phone calls and online communication through e‑mail and social media. Elizabethtown has also started printing quick response (QR) codes on its pieces, which allow targets to quickly jump to a website by snapping a photo of the barcode with a smart phone.

The college also uses mail to reinforce marketing messages sent digitally, as it did with a brochure that followed an e-mail about a fundraising challenge with a rival school. Integrated marketing campaigns that included print outperformed all of their previous efforts.

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