“It may be true that response rates are not as high as in that Golden Era—but in most categories they’re down only slightly, if at all. Some marketers, such as retailers, are seeing dramatically higher response to their direct mail than in the 1980s. Another bright spot is higher-income households, those earning $65K per year or more. Their ‘find it useful,’ ‘will read,’ and ‘will respond’ evaluations are up virtually across the board compared to 1987, according to household diaries.”

Laurie B. Beasley, President, Beasley Direct Marketing, Inc., from the 2014 Statistical Fact Book, “Chapter 3: Direct Mail”

It was over ten years ago that the famous VH1 special I Love the ‘80s was first broadcast, a show which examined pop cultural phenomena from the decade and prompting rosy-glassed nostalgia among its viewers.  In between clips from the “Love Boat” and Madonna music videos, I suspect there is another topic that marketers would insert into the show if they could: direct mail marketing in the last decade before the meteoric rise of the internet.

It may feel nostalgic to remember the past, but it shouldn’t keep direct mail marketers’ eyes away from the present: direct mail is as relevant a channel as ever, with personalization enabled by a wider range of offline/online data and a far less saturated market to mail to.  Check out the chart below to see how response rates to standard mail have changed since the premiere of Dirty Dancing:


As the chart shows, response rates have declined in some areas (credit card, telephone), but in others they’ve remained fairly steady or even increased.  Department store solicitations in particular seem to have significantly increased response rates.  Consumers are still responsive to direct mail, with some groups (like younger adults and teens) being highly responsive.

Got any direct mail stories you’d like to share in the comments? Any ‘80s nostalgia you like to look back on?  Tell us about it!


Our Saturday Stats come to you every week from the DMA 2014 Statistical Fact Book.  We’ll be sending up Saturday Stats every weekend until October 25, the beginning of the DMA2014 Annual Conference.  We hope to see you there!  To take a deeper dive into the Statistical Fact Book, click here for more information.

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