A friend of mine recently turned me onto the United States Postal Service’s new trade magazine, Deliver. He receives the magazine at his office and would normally put it in the pile of things he may get to, but will likely never read; an important point that we will get to in a bit, but first, more about Deliver.
In short, Deliver is a B2B magazine geared toward helping companies do better with their direct mail promotion (aka: junk mail). From a first breeze-through, the magazine is well designed with a good flow to the content. Strictly from a magazine standpoint, this book ranks reasonably high for business oriented rags. Between a good, clean layout, nice typography throughout and good photography, it’s a competent magazine visually. However, that’s not why I’m bringing it up. More after the jump…
You see, the reason USPS is pushing direct mail so hard is because the much maligned junk mail is their bread and butter. A few years ago, I had a brief conversation with a guy who ran the local USPS distribution center. He told me quite curtly that if junk mail went away, so would the USPS. The vested interest the USPS has in direct mail is obvious, and nevermore apparent than after reading through Deliver Magazine.
When you read through Deliver, many of the stories comes off either as a self-congratulatory pat on the back, or a defensive stance that flies in the face of anyone who says direct mail is dead. Maybe it’s not dead, but definitely dying a slow, painful death and it’s Deliver’s job to remind you that direct mail is still a tool in the marketers belt. Honestly, it feels a bit desperate, as if the USPS is staring down the barrel of a gun, pleading for their life, but with a smug assertion that we’ll miss them when they’re gone.
I’m not sure who writes the “Leader Column”, but in both of the mags that I have, the writer makes some bold, yet Luddite-esque assertions. In one article speaking about ROI, while trying to give reasons to measure no realistic profit numbers (a good thing), they can’t help but stroke their egos while making the point.
In another article, the author discusses the 40-40-20 rule of direct response, which states that when measuring the success of direct mail campaign, you should focus 40% on a well targeted list, 40% on a compelling offer and 20% on design, yet further along in that issue, they showcase some of the most hideous design examples you can possibly imagine. I ask you, Deliver Magazine, what good is a quality mailing list and a compelling offer if the designs sucks so bad, nobody will want to read it.
Furthermore, I can’t recall the last time I got a piece of direct mail that was “targeted” toward me specifically unless I was previous customer of that company. How many of you have received a card in the mail that was addressed to you “or current resident”? I see this more and more, but how is that targeted? If they want more engagement, and less people shelving their hard work, tossing it before it gets read; a little more personal engagement is needed.
I’m not saying that direct mail shouldn’t be used, or doesn’t work, but don’t put out a magazine that tries to tell me how much direct mail works and proceed to give me crappy examples of that theory in practice. I argue that these companies should put more energy into their design, provide superior customer service and a quality product and then their mailing list will be more receptive. In fact, the USPS should follow that same advice. When was the last time you had a good customer experience at the post office? Yeah, me neither.
The Postal Service is wounded buffalo on the savannah. Its obvious why they would put forth an effort to encourage businesses to continue using their services, but the landscape has changed and it doesn’t seem like the USPS is adapting well. Who knows what will happen with Deliver Magazine and the USPS in the future, but if they continue with business as usual, they’re going be some hyenas’ dinner.