The ‘Age of Distraction’: How Direct Mail Can Aid in Marketing’s Battle For Your Customer's Attention

By Toby Reed

Much has been written about the ‘Age of Distraction’. Case in point, this article in MarketScale or the announcements by the NBA, NFL and others that they are seeking ways to shorten games to battle their viewers shrinking attention span.

Information Overload

The basic premise of the ‘Age of Distraction’ is that advances in online media, digital devices and information technologies have created this storm of information overload that has trained society to consume information in ‘fun-size’ increments. Often absorbing a plurality of messages across multiple devices at one time. This in turn, has greatly shortened our attention span, especially Millennials. And while not an official disorder (at least not yet) a name for this attention span deficiency has been dubbed: Constant Distraction Disorder or CDD. This reduction in attention span makes the marketer’s job of getting in front of, and delivering key content to, their customers very difficult.

Many will advise marketers, rightly, to develop content that is succinct. To develop integrated content that pulls its recipient along the ‘buyer’s journey’ in a well thought out, bite-sized series of relevant content that not only informs but engages and offers choice to its audience. All of which is very sound advice. However, a larger point is being missed. In the end, if your marketing message is exclusively online, you are putting all of your content “eggs” into the “basket” (online media) that is training our customers to pay less attention.

The fact is, the amount of content online is simply overwhelming to consumers. And while there are many benefits (cost, reach, data insights, etc.) to online marketing, the landscape itself sometimes becomes the marketer’s biggest enemy. This is why I often encourage marketers to engage their customers with a multi-channel marketing campaign that uses direct mail to complement their digital brand building and promotion efforts online.


Distraction Free Communication: Direct Mail

Because direct mail provides a very unique, distraction free, opportunity to reach your customer. Something the USPS has coined the ‘mail-moment’. Smartly integrated into your well targeted and timely online marketing campaign, direct mail has the opportunity to engage your customer without the distraction of other online media. Additionally, since direct mail is not ‘pushed’ digitally to its recipient, the consumer has the opportunity to absorb the content at a pace and time they choose to consume the message. This presents a much greater opportunity for your marketing piece to have a distraction free engagement with your customer.

Studies have shown that integrating direct mail bolsters online campaign results. In an article from CMO called “Direct Mail Meets Digital To The Delight Of Brands”, CMO highlights a company called PebblePost. This company has built a business on the concept of multi-channel marketing. PebblePost improves their customers' online marketing campaigns by implementing a re-marketing platform that makes use of personalized direct mail. A process they call ‘Programmatic Direct Mail’.


Complementary Communication Channels: Direct Mail and Technology

What PebblePost, and other savvy marketers are coming to realize is that online and offline marketing channels should not be competing, but instead complementing one another. After all, studies show that as much as 80-90% of direct mail gets opened and marketing campaigns that use direct mail to complement online efforts achieve 25% more customer spend while increasing brand awareness and recall compared to online efforts alone.

So as you are planning your customer engagement strategies for 2017, and are wondering how to slay the ‘Age of Distraction’ dragon, consider a multi-channel marketing approach that includes direct mail. It's a proven marketing channel that can help your online campaign break through much of the digital noise and regain your customer's attention.


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