Is Direct Mail and the Catalog Dead?

Some say direct mail and catalogs are dead.


What's dead is any channel where copywriting doesn't sell and close deals. Our culture of political correctness is seeping into marketing, with too many marketers afraid to sell with hard-hitting sales copy. 

Looking back through my 2015 columns, there are a few topics that have particularly resonated with readers. Here’s a recap, along with more commentary about the importance of these topics.

Why Direct Mail Won’t Die. The reason direct mail continues to be alive and well is because it’s the one channel that offers the highest opportunity for strong reading comprehension, which leads to long-term memory. Most online channels are “glance and forget” impressions. Direct mail endures when strong copywriting is combined with precise targeting to a specific persona. Unfortunately, there is a lot of weak direct mail being produced, due to weak copy. When it’s weak, it’s a waste of marketer’s money and annoys consumers. Direct mail copy must stimulate emotion, create a unique selling proposition, in many instances should tell a story, and persuade the reader to give themselves permission to act. You can do all of this using these 12 direct mail mandates.

3 Charges for Direct Marketing in 2015. The year may be nearly over, but the charges I shared earlier this year are still essential today. The three charges included:

  1. Cultivate Your Platform. It’s essential you create raving fans. They’re money in the bank.
  2. How Do You Make Them Feel? Connect at an emotional level. Your prospects will remember how you made them feel before they remember what you sell and what you said about your product or organization.
  3. Strategically Monetize. You need to look at the cost per customer differently because of the mixture of channels and approaches, such as content marketing, where ROI can’t always be directly attributed.

8 Seconds to Pounce Using the 3 E’s of Copywriting. Eight seconds. That’s the average attention span of today’s reader, with those precious seconds representing about the time to read only 30 to 40 words of copy. Or about HERE in this paragraph (at 35 words). Those 35 to 40 words should:

  1. Entertain
  2. Educate
  3. Engage

As for what’s in store in 2016, in a couple of weeks I’ll share emerging brain research that in my experience reshapes how we approach direct mail copywriting and messaging to reach people more deeply and generate response. Watch for it the first week of January. 


Gary Hennerberg

After a lot of years in marketing and sales, this is what I know works:

Stories sell. Think unique. Stimulate emotion. Close deals. And here are a few other gems from my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code.” Know the persona, interpret your offer and let your prospect give themselves permission to buy. That’s how the brain is wired. It’s how people think.

What else? When I’m not breaking down complex topics (or ones marketers over-complicate) into easy-to-grasp stories that sell, I crunch numbers. Manage projects. Write. Teach. Lead.