The Future of Direct Mail
Direct mail is not going away anytime soon!
Forget the occasional news stories about social media ultimately replacing old-fashion mail delivered by your local postal carrier. It’s wishful thinking on the part of today’s youth who created and continue nurturing Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and an assortment of other time-consuming ventures that keep people increasingly dependent on some techno-gadget 24/7 for communicating.
Such apocalyptic stories make good filler for today’s round-the-clock news cycle where we are continuously treated to an array of mind-numbing predictions about everything from who will win on Dancing with the Stars to whether or not Michael Vick should be allowed to get a new dog.
While it’s true that a growing number of companies are turning to email marketing, websites, and social media to sell their merchandise and services, all are simply new channels of communication working alongside traditional mail.
As fellow blogger Joe Swatek pointed out in last Friday’s blog, “List: Why Direct Mail Lasts,” available below, there’s a long list of valid reasons why mail in general, and direct mail specifically, will be with us for the foreseeable future. I agree 100% with what Joe had to say in his blog.
One major item I’d like to add to Joe’s list is that our old-fashion mail system isn’t totally reliant on the Internet and expensive gadgets powered by electricity and short-lived batteries. Should a major disaster or gaggle of hackers bring about a long-term interruption of the Internet (which in today’s society could be seen as five days), we could still communicate with each other by letters and postcards sent through a manually-operated post office.
Think about it, from a disaster planning perspective alone, keeping the postal service alive and well makes a lot of sense.
And let’s not blame the postal service’s dire financial problems we hear about today on consumers falling out of love with old-fashion mail. A majority of consumers still love getting stuff in the mail they can touch, feel and hang on the wall if desired. Ultimately, the postal service’s financial problems will most likely be quickly solved by the private sector. Until this happens the 24-hour news media will continue entertaining us with horror stories about the losses at the postal service. Ignore them.
As I was thinking about a possible Internet apocalypse and the mail service I remembered one of my favorite movie epics – it’s Kevin Costner’s 1997 movie “The Postman.” While it got bad reviews from most of the movie critics – I’m still not sure how this profession enriches our society – I personally enjoyed the story and have watched it several times over the years. I own the DVD.
Set in a post-apocalyptic United States, Kevin Costner’s character – known only as The Postman – happens upon a skeleton inside a wrecked postal truck. Taking the carrier’s postal hat, jacket, and pouch of undelivered mail, it provides Costner with the perfect ruse to convince the survivors inside a gated compound to allow him to enter. Hoping for food and lodging, he tells the story about the new government that’s been formed and how postal service is being resumed.
Anxious to communicate with friends and relatives who possibly survived and are living in similar compounds around the country, they begin writing letters and bringing them to him for delivery once he leaves the compound. His story fascinates one young man in the compound who quickly volunteers to be his assistant. This young man takes the name Ford Lincoln Mercury in the movie.
Costner’s character leaves the compound with no intention of delivering the mail. In the meantime, the young man recruits more mail carriers and starts making deliveries to other communities of survivors. Costner discovers what has happened and is convinced by some of the survivors in the original compound to rejoin Ford Lincoln Mercury in keeping alive the dream of rebuilding the country.
The rest of the movie is about the hardships encountered and the heroism shown by the growing number of mail carriers as they go about expanding mail delivery. Word of what’s happening spreads rapidly from compound to compound as the survivors become convinced that it will be the hard work and dedication of the U.S. mail carriers who eventually rebuild America by enabling folks to resume communicating with each other via the old-fashion letter.
Perhaps the movie, based on David Brin’s 1985 novel The Postman, should be considered a warning about the value of retaining an old-fashion mail delivery service that’s not dependent on today’s high-tech society.
Besides, I don’t find those wacky JibJab Christmas cards I’ve been receiving from friends lately a substitute for the hand-picked cards arriving in the mail each day that I can open, read, smile about, and hang around the door frame to enjoy for the next few weeks.
Electronic communication is fine…it’s just not a perfect replacement for the mail arriving daily in my mailbox.
Imagine having to adjust to a world without old-fashion mail. Why today, we can’t even imagine not having mail delivery on Saturday.
So the next time you hear some media pundit predicting the death of personal and direct mail delivered by the postal service, know that he or she is merely filling an empty space in the 24/7 news cycle and doesn’t believe it either.