Saturday, January 23, 2010

Surprising Results from a Recent Study - Students and Young Professionals are Influenced by Direct Mail

Like all marketers, we are constantly evaluating which channel seems most appropriate in delivering our offer. Here at MGI, we’re finding that targeting specific niches using multiple channels with multiple touches dramatically increases response rates.

We’re also always hearing about the demise of direct mail. Well, if you take to heart the results of a 2008 study reported by Exact Target, you’ll realize that direct mail is still a strong channel through which you can deliver your message – even to younger audiences.

You’ll see that its not about using anyone channel in so much as it is about using the right channel.

Here is a summary of the results, as reported in Exact Target’s 2008 Channel Preference Survey of 1500 internet users age 15 to 65+ who were asked questions about their attitudes and usage of one-to-one communication channels. Given the age span, researchers were able to cluster responses by age and reported the results by 6 “Personas:”

1. Wired – young males ages 18 to 34, no children, college educated with a minimum annual income of $35,000. Spend an average of 8 hours/day on their computers with high internet and email usage. Use of text messaging, social networks and IM are above average. Big concurrent media users. View different channels by perceived level of urgency: SMS for financial alerts and travel changes; email for promotions, account updates, etc. They tend to use phone and email first when communicating for personal reasons. Avid on-line shoppers and influenced to shop through email. Ads and messaging through social networks are not appreciated. Favorable attitude toward direct mail.

Marketer Takeaway – use the right channel for the right communication.

2. Young Homemakers – young women between the ages of 18 and 34 who consider “homemaker” to be their primary occupation, with annual household income of at least $35,000. Primarily use email for personal communication (58%), but also use text messaging and IM to a much lesser extent. Some concurrent media usage. They do participate in social networks and don’t seem to welcome advertising through this channel. Over 72% have been influenced to purchase by direct mail.

Marketer Takeaway – personal communication and control is a big thing. “Build opt-in relationship with this group for email, or leverage their affinity to direct mail with relevant, helpful information…” (pg. 6)

3. Retired – exclusively retirees and includes both men and women, but skewed toward men (57%). 80% attended college and 41% received at least a Bachelor’s degree. Spend seven hours a day on average watching TV. Not big concurrent media users. Spend a “significant amount of time” (pg 6) reading newspapers and books. 2.5 times more likely to call than to write. Small percentage (3%) have adopted text messaging and IM as primary communication tools. 81% have purchased online. Direct mail has influenced 90% to make a purchase. 73% reported to being influenced by email to make a purchase.

Marketer Takeaway – stay with direct mail but now use email.

4. College Students – primarily 18 to 24 years of age (but 10% of the sample were older). Big concurrent media users, with heavy internet usage as well as spending “considerable time reading books, listening to music and watching movies” (pg. 7). Heavy social network users (64% reported that they regularly participate) and use IM and texting. College women are 9% more likely to purchase online than average. Direct mail and email have influenced 55% and 50% respectively to make a purchase. Permission is a big deal for this spam-savvy group.

Marketer Takeaway – keep personal and business promotions separate.

5. Teens – high-school students between 15 and 17 years of age. Big screen-based media users, usually accessing multiple channels concurrently (I can personally attest to this as I do have a 16 year-old). Big users of text messaging, IM and social networking sites. Interesting note that “female teens spending more time on email and males spending more time with IM” (pg 9). Surprisingly, “Teens see direct mail as the most appropriate channel for marketers to communicate with them. 58% say they have been influenced by Direct Mail to make a purchase” (pg. 10).

Marketer Takeaway – teens are more likely to be influenced to make a purchase by direct mail than any other method.

6. Established Pros – professionals employed full-time, age 35+, annual income greater than $75,000. “…moderate media consumers” (pg. 10). Online many times a day, typically more often at work than at home. Prefer the telephone when communicating with friends. Most frequently use email to communicate. When compared with other groups, use of digital media is low. Big online shoppers. 94% have made a purchase as the result of a direct marketing campaign. 90% have been influenced by direct mail.

Marketer Takeaway – “…it’s about email and direct mail…and that’s it” (pg. 11).

If you’d like a copy of this whitepaper, go to


  1. Thanks for sharing this Erik. This is very useful information. I watch my own family in what they use and for what and much of what you share seems to confirm what I see.

    Both my daughters use Facebook and other e-technologies for communicating and for shopping. AND they also read direct mail. When something catches their attention, they then go to website. So it's combination of direct mail and web.

    As for my wife, whose career doesn't have her sit in front of a screen too often. She collects mail that is of interest to her, taking it to the hospital. She'll grab coffee and bagel and go through her mailings. When it comes time to buy something that grabs her attention, then she'll go to web to make the purchase.

    In both cases, very different age group yet nearly very similar buying behavior. Oh, one more things to note and it's a big one I believe. It's becoming more and more that the materials they receive on-line, unless it's from a well known name, they often look at it with suspicioun, having heard stories of so many scams. And majority of those scams seems to happen via on-line medias.

    I myself have nearly been caught in couple and today I am very cautious when I receive on-line ads. And by nature I am a very trusting person. For me, direct mail doesn't raise the issue of trust so much. Therefore I feel more safe with materials I receive via mail.

  2. Another good way to give your response rates a boost is to use personal urls. An example of a Personal URL would be: and when "Jim" visits his personal url, the website will usually be customized to him. It also allows the marketer to track who is responding. Learn more at:

  3. Excellent suggestion Marty. Thanks for posting.