Is Direct Mail Dead? Don’t Tell Victoria’s Secret!

Victoria's Secret direct mail catalog still going strong

“…the report of my death is an exaggeration.” – Mark Twain

Direct mail could borrow a page from Mark Twain’s biography. In 1897 while living abroad, his death was reported in New York. His response has been shared with many variations but the meaning is the same: someone lied about Twain’s demise.

The introduction of social media as a marketing channel was quickly followed by direct mail’s obituary. The idea that direct mail was dead, or even at death’s door, was amusing then. Years later, after social media has failed to deliver the revenue stream needed to replace other channels, it is still amusing. Direct mail remains a valuable marketing channel to companies that know how to use it well. It is a part of the multichannel experience that cannot be replaced electronically.

Catalogs continue to deliver a substantial portion of revenue for companies using them. Operational costs tend to be a bit lower because people like to look through the book and order online. Somehow, it seems easier to flag items in a book than on website. There are valid arguments for and against mailing a catalog. The only right answer is the one that works for your company. Testing will help you make an informed decision about mailing more or less.

The holiday edition of Victoria’s Secret landed in my mailbox with a thump. The 176 page book dwarfs the company’s typical 32 – 48 page books. Obviously, the marketing team doesn’t listen to the pundits declaring the death of the direct mail channel. They have expanded while others are scaling down.

It’s a good time to be landing in mailboxes. The scaling down of direct mail reduces the competition for attention. A company with a good house file and some analytical chops can make a catalog perform well. The challenge isn’t with an individual channel; it’s finding the right mix of channels to reach customers and prospects when they are most likely to buy.

The emergence of new channels provides opportunities to expand your marketing reach. Every channel needs to be evaluated and adapted to serve your company and customers. Thriving in a multichannel world requires marketers to become channel agnostic and embrace new experiences. Corporate success requires people to move out of their comfort zones to find the best venues for the company’s marketing messages.

For information on how this applies to your business, email Debra at

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