“Digital companies also use physical direct mail, because you see that you get a higher effect when you use the physical channel.”

For advertisers and marketers, finding new ways to reach the customer is a constant challenge. The value of direct mail marketing has long been established but an increase in home deliveries and the success of Amazon and others has provided another possibility too – to use the box itself as an advertising tool. Its success has helped draw even online-only brands back to this analogue space.

Use boxes as a billboard

The world’s largest retail site first tried the approach back in 2015 when Amazon Advertising teamed up with Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment to promote the release of the movie Minions. Bright yellow boxes featuring the characters proved to be a hit with customers. “Amazon had this opportunity to use boxes as a billboard, and we can use that billboard to help customers discover a whole new way to interact with content,” said Vas Obeyesekere, senior industrial designer, Augmented Reality, Amazon.

Both the inside and the outside

The message hasn't gone unnoticed in the Nordics, where NordicFeel, Skin City, Lyko, Apotea and others are using both the inside and outside of delivery packaging to spread their marketing messages. Arne B Andersson, e-commerce advisor at PostNord, one of the largest parcels, logistics and communications operators in the Nordic region has seen the trend growing. “PostNord began on a small scale with this a couple of years ago, as we looked at how to reduce the air in packaging. It proved to be a big hit with companies straight away because consumers are so conscious about the packaging they’re receiving. At this point many companies started actually advertising on the packaging itself, either on it or in it,” he says. The sustainability aspect can’t be understated, according to Andersson. “It’s unnecessary to transport a lot of air – and from a sustainability perspective you can get a lot more packed into a vehicle.”

"Bounce-back" and insert programmes

In the US, the service where one can “piggyback” on the packaging space both inside and on the surface of the packaging, is known as “bounceback,” explains Polly Wong, president of Belardi Wong, which has more than 300 direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands active in the market. “There are also insert programmes here where one brand can put its insert into another’s outbound package,” she adds.

Most sophisticated marketers understand that when you contact consumers across channels you increase response rates and marketing effectiveness

The enduring faith in direct mail marketing shows that, used correctly, even in today’s digital world, there is still a place for this unapologetically analogue marketing tool. In fact, Wong adds, the appetite for direct mail marketing is greater than ever. “Most sophisticated marketers understand that when you contact consumers across channels you increase response rates and marketing effectiveness,” she says. “Direct mail provides an incredible amount of physical space to tell your brand and product story. The highest growth companies in the US are leveraging online and offline channels to accelerate their growth.”

93% reported a sales increase

According to Wong’s agency, in 2020, 93% of direct mail clients reported an increase in year-over-year sales. Back in the Nordics we’re seeing something similar, according to Nathalie Malmsten, Product Manager Marketing Communications at PostNord. “The fact that completely digital companies also use physical direct mail is because you see that you get a higher effect when you use the physical channel,” she says.

Part of DM’s success is neurological. Research shows that we’re more likely to be affected because it creates a stronger emotional response than digital advertising – this, in turn, strengthens brand awareness. “I think that physical direct mail will continue to play a very important role in the media mix. It may even increase its share, precisely because it feels more personal and you can take part in it at your own pace, and when your ‘window’ is open,” says Malmsten.

Article by: Geoff Mortimore
Image by: Jann Lipka