21 Oct. 2021. After the recent social media shutdown, which resulted in millions of people unable to use Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp for six hours, we look at the advantages of direct mail.

Just before 4pm on Monday 4 October, the online world was thrown into chaos. The digital platforms Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, and Messenger all went down, not just for a few minutes, but for six hours. Billions of people around the world were suddenly unable to access their social media, millions of businesses were unable to advertise, and Facebook lost an estimated $79m in revenue along with a drop in share price of 4.9%.

It’s unlikely many are going to shed a tear over Facebook’s financial loss – they would have recouped their losses overnight. But the outage highlighted the business world’s deep-rooted relationship with social media and how precarious that relationship can be. One code glitch or server problem and the entire system could fall, leaving digital-heavy businesses unable to market, sell or communicate with their customers.

If only there was a medium that didn’t rely on digital technology…

A Powerful Force
By coincidence, in the same week that Facebook was experiencing one of the worst shutdowns in its 17-year history, a report was released that stated that direct mail is now “one of the most powerful forces in marketing”.

The new study from WARC and Royal Mail MarketReach found that 70% of consumers have been driven to an online activity by direct mail, while more than a third (35%) of campaigns that use direct mail recorded an ROI benefit. That compares to the UK average of 23%.

Titled ‘Driving Effectiveness with Direct Mail’, the report highlights the physical nature of mail, which results in it grabbing both sensory and mental attention, delivering an average engagement rate of 95%. Since it can be highly personalised and targeted, it can also keep consumer attention for longer than digital channels, which is further increased with the use of personalisation. These effects are particularly relevant for Generation Z, who have grown up with digital messaging and for whom mail presents something unique.

“From building brands, cutting through the clutter and eliciting a direct response, to nurturing powerful connections with customers and amplifying digital channels in the mix, it’s clear mail delivers effective business outcomes in a variety of ways, across a variety of categories to engage all audiences,” says Dan Jury, Senior Media Planner at Royal Mail MarketReach. “Direct mail is alive and well. It has undergone significant digital transformation of its own, remains the third largest media channel in the UK, integrates powerfully with other channels to support full-funnel strategies, is a proven driver of business growth and ROI, and is highly trusted – particularly with Gen Z.”

Quick Thinking
One company that wasn’t slow to react to Facebook’s problems was the Post Office, which launched a simple but powerful outdoor campaign with just two words, ‘Social post’, but with the first word struck through. The highly reactive campaign was designed to remind the public that there’s a way to keep in touch with friends and family that they can rely on.

“We wanted to take advantage of last night’s social media outage to celebrate the Post Office,” said Jules Chalkley, Executive Creative Director of Ogilvy UK. “While the world went into digital turmoil, Post Office did what it has always done: be the original social media network, connecting people day in day out, all over the country in a beautifully human way.”

And that, in a nutshell, is what quality print marketing can achieve: connection and engagement using the personal touch, which then translates into action. If the recent issues with the digital world has highlighted how reliant you and your company is on social media, then perhaps it’s time to add some analogue into your marketing mix.

1. www.thedrum.com/news/2021/10/06/post-office-delivers-damning-billboard-mocking-facebook-crash
2. www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/gen-z-likely-respond-physical-direct-marketing-campaigns