Direct Mail: Email is fast but letter is better

Crawford Hollingworth
The Behavioural Architects

With the UK's Royal Mail now making profits for the first time in many years and about to be privatised, it's a good time to think about what it is about a letter that excites us. 'Snail mail' - whether in the form of a personal or business letter - is still widely considered to be more powerful than digital communications and well worth the investment.

The power of 'snail mail' is clearly reflected in comparisons between the response rates of hard copy direct mail versus email campaigns. Response rates to letters are typically 30 times better than email – around 3.4% for direct mail, compared to 0.12% for email in 2012. Although the costs of direct mail are much higher than emails, the good old letter remains a popular marketing tool and still accounts for over a third of direct marketing expenditure in most countries1. A number of concepts drawn from behavioural sciences explain why.

The lure of the letter