“Those persons that live remote, by sending their orders and money to said B. Franklin, may depend on the same justice as if present.”
— “A Catalogue of Choice and Valuable Books,” 17441
Count D2C marketing among Benjamin Franklin’s many inventions. (Funny that the product he chose to sell via mail order was books. Did that make him the Jeff Bezos of his time?) Franklin recognized something that is as true today as it was in 1744: For marketers, the most effective way to reach the consumer is in the home.
Coming Through Loud and Clear
Each new form of mass media has succeeded, in large measure, by providing an improved home delivery system for advertising. Print enabled not only mail-order catalogs and direct mail, but also newspapers and magazines (which thrived during their heyday because of ad revenue, not sales of the actual product). Radio enabled consumers to experience ads in the home passively — they could just sit back in their favorite chair and listen. (Underscoring the connection between the comfort of the home environment and effective advertising, the very first commercial, produced almost 100 years ago, was for a suburban New York apartment complex that promised “community life in a friendly environment.”) Television pushed passive consumption of ads in the home to another level by providing visual images that radio listeners could only imagine. (In the process, TV also pushed radio out of the house and into the car, where an audio-only medium still had value.)
Sometime between the advent of the internet and the development of mobile, marketers lost sight of the importance of the home environment in effectively reaching consumers. This is partly because the first mass wave of digital devices migrated to the home from the office. (It might be hard for digital natives to imagine, but for many baby-boomers, a “computer” was something that resided only on their desktop — their physical desktop — at work, not at their house.)
Then digital barely had time to settle in the home before it wandered away again via the laptop, smartphone and tablet.
Ever since, digital marketers have relentlessly pursued consumers on their devices wherever they go. It’s an irresistible impulse, like a dog chasing a car — and the result have been just about as effective.
Bring It on Home
Slowly, brands are waking up to the importance of environment, of context, and of tangibility in reaching consumers in a digital world. Brands are also recognizing that the most effective strategies use a recombinant approach that cherry-picks the best elements of all channels of mass media that have come before. And they’re realizing, as if for the first time, the importance of reaching the consumer in the home. After all, that’s where consumers keep most of the stuff they consume.
So if you’re a brand that wants to reach a consumer in the home, how would you go about it? Let’s look at the options.
TV. Sure, television remains highly effective — if you’re a long-established national brand with a $500 million annual advertising budget. But if you’re a digitally native vertical brand, TV is too expensive. (Unless you want to go the late-night route, which we don’t recommend.)
Radio. That’s for the car now, not the home, remember? Seriously: When was the last time you listened to the radio in your house?
Newspapers and magazines. Hard to portray yourself as fresh and new when you advertise in a medium in which circulation is steadily falling while the audience’s age is steadily climbing. (The median age of those who read newspaper print editions is now almost 58.) Also, finding content that complements your brand can be difficult.
Digital. What? Haven’t you been listening at all?
So what’s left? Well, how about thinking outside the (glowing) box and going all the way back to the days of Ben Franklin? Why not send prospects a piece of direct mail?
Wow. You know what, that’s not a bad idea. In fact, it’s a great idea. In recent years, survey after survey has indicated that reports of direct mail’s death has been greatly exaggerated. Most surprising of all, is that direct mail is an especially effective method for reaching younger consumers. More than 95% of 18-to-29-year-olds respond in a positive way to personalized cards and letters. Against a backdrop of so much instantly forgettable digital clutter, consumers appreciate the simple act of holding something real in their hands.
Think about the power of tangibility. Imagine if you could capture a consumer’s intent signal online, as with digital. But then, rather than retarget them with a display ad, you send them a piece of direct mail that they can look at in the comfort and privacy of their own home, on their own schedule. Then, when they’re ready, they can follow through via the purchase channel of their choosing.
That not only could work — it already does work.
Don’t think so? Ask Haven Life about their 9.42% conversion rate. Or Dermstore about their 3x return on ad spend (ROAS) using a special promo code. Or Boxed.com about their 35x overall ROAS.
Through PebblePost’s Programmatic Direct Mail®, these brands and others are reaching consumers in their home and driving results that would have made Ben Franklin proud.
1A Catalogue of Choice and Valuable Books (Philadelphia: B, Franklin, 1744).
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