September 12, 2017

Direct Marketing Chart: How much different age groups trust direct mail


In our research about consumer trust in different advertising channels, we discovered that the most trusted channels were all traditional. Or, as the digital marketer might say — offline.

But take heart, online marketers. With a better understanding of how different generations perceive these offline channels, you can integrate the most trusted channels for your audience into your marketing mix.

This week, we take a look at the third most trusted channel and explore how much different age groups trust direct mail.

Read on to see the data, along with analysis and commentary from MarketingSherpa and Tigh Loughhead, Marketing Director, Elegran Real Estate & Development.

(As seen in the MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week newsletter. Click to get a free subscription to the latest research and case studies from MarketingSherpa.)

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute


We asked consumers about their most trusted ad channels — “In general, which type of advertising channels do you trust more when you want to make a purchase decision? Please sort the options into ‘Ads I trust’ and ‘Ads I don't trust that much’ categories.’”

The below chart takes a deeper dive into the ads/catalogs I receive in the mail option to see how the response varied among different age groups.

To see 34 more charts from the study, download the free report.


Oldest Americans most likely to trust direct mail

The Silent Generation (born between 1925 and 1945) were the most likely to trust direct mail when considering a purchase decision, with more than four out of five (83%) Americans in that age group saying they trust it.

Trust went down from there and bottomed out among millennials, with 70% of the youngest age group saying they trust direct mail when making a purchase decision.

While this seems like a very common-sense pattern — trust linearly decreasing with age — it was actually unique. This was the only category of the 13 categories we surveyed consumers about in which the Silent Generation was the most trusting.

Even digital marketers can benefit from using direct mail

The email inbox is extremely crowded, as anyone who has tried to take a day off from work without checking in can attest. So, direct mail is a less-crowded (albeit more expensive) channel that can stand out and grab the customer’s attention.

“Rumors of print’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Working for a data-driven real estate firm that prides itself primarily in digital marketing, Elegran has found that direct mail has a consistently higher ROI from our Alfred system compared to other, often cheaper digital channels,” said Tigh Loughhead, Marketing Director, Elegran Real Estate & Development.

“While I would always advocate a multi-channel approach, certain media like direct mail can be the most influential channel available to marketers, especially when targeting consumers by demographics, which can add a multiplier on ROI.”

If you’re a digital marketer new to direct mail, here are a few basic tips to help get you started.

Consider the audience

In the research survey, we also allowed respondents to provide free-form answers. “Make the print larger for people who have problems seeing such small print,” one respondent said.

If you are focused on the oldest Americans with your direct mail, keep their unique needs in mind. One of those needs is, of course, the ability to read the direct mail ad or catalog you’re sending.

Offer an enticing incentive

Direct mail (along with other physical advertising like newspapers and magazines) makes it very easy to provide incentives to get customers to act. Or, as one respondent simply put it when asked if there was anything he or she would like marketers to know — “Coupons!”

Physical coupons can be used to entice consumers to go to a brick and mortar store, restaurant or other physical location. And, as a bonus, they can provide a way for brands to track response.

Coupon, discount and gift certificate codes can help drive customers to an ecommerce or other website to act as well. But even when the coupon is simply a string of letters and numbers or other promo code that will be typed into a form on a website, including a physical card with that information as part of the direct mail piece can bring a physical tangibility to the digital purchase experience.

Tailor your message

Direct mail is the original one-to-one communication method. And the Silent Generation came of age during an era when it was used primarily for that — handwritten letters from the front, from children away at camp, between lovers torn apart by life’s fickle finger of fate, etc.

And consumers have a desire for getting messages tailored to them. As one respondent replied, “The more personal you can make an advertisement, the better. I tend to remember those that make me relate to why I need the product, sometimes because I'm given exact examples of what it could be used for that I may not have thought about previously.”

“More than ever, ads must be relevant and targeted. Personalization and contextualization are key, so know your audience and personalize the content whenever possible,” Loughhead advised.

“For example, at Elegran we send direct mail addressed not only to homeowners in a specific ZIP code, but segment the messaging by price point and bedroom size, personalizing the experience so that the messaging is relevant to the consumer. The results of personalized, hyper-targeted direct mail [show it] is seven to eight times more effective than mass mail,” he said.

Related resources

Direct Mail Marketing: Multi-channel approach achieves 700% ROI

Marketing Chart: Which advertising channels consumers trust most and least when making purchases

Multichannel Marketing: Direct mail, phone and email combine to lift executive briefing calls 50%

Direct Marketing Chart: Why customers ignore direct mail

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