5 Awesome Charts From the 2018 ANA/DMA Response Rate Report – With Mspark Commentary

If you follow our blog regularly, you might have noticed that we often refer to response rates from the Association of National Advertisers/Data and Marketing Association’s annual response rate report. One reason we love digging through the report is because finding reliable intel on how certain types of media typically perform, typical ROI, and other related info is not something you can easily discover without doing an afternoon of digging and distilling it all into something mildly insightful.

Beyond conversations with clients, the ANA/DMA Response Rate Report is a quick and easy way to get a general sense of how marketers are using media and how media is working out for them. We want to share some stats from the report, as well as our own thoughts as an industry leader in direct mail solutions.

The “Looking Good, Direct Mail” Chart

The first chart that caught our eye was this one showing response rates nearly doubling. Before we get into why we think there is such a dramatic rise, we should point out that several of the stats from the Response Rate Report are based off low sample sizes. They survey marketers and roll with whatever number of responses they get. So, for this chart, they had 79 marketers respond for using house lists and 61 marketers respond for using a prospect list. We try to keep this in mind when looking at these charts; and while it’s tempting to go a little bananas about these positive numbers for direct mail and our clients, we have to remember that these percentages are not benchmarks for everyone in every industry in every market. We are still over the moon happy though, just as we are when our clients give us their great results as well.
There are a few other things that might help explain the rise. The first thing is that ANA/DMA changed the way they display response rates back in 2015. Prior to 2015, you’re seeing average response rates. But when they realized the distribution of data enabled them to use median response rates, they scrapped averages in favor of displaying median response rates – a superior measure of central tendency. When we look at this, our reaction is that it’s good to see direct mail responses skewing higher. We think that has a lot to do with several things that have changed in recent years. Among the reasons we’d include:

  • Improvements in targeting capabilities using far more robust consumer data and related tech.
  • Improvements in messaging, personalization, and delivery.
  • Advances in cross-channel campaigns, integrating direct mail more seamlessly into the brand experience.
  • Exodus of marketers finding little success with their use of outdated mailing strategies and abandoning direct mail for cheaper options. More marketers using newer mailing strategies, driving response rates up.

The “Direct Mail Holding Steady” Chart

In the chart below measuring media use in campaigns, over half of respondents incorporated direct mail into campaigns – more than paid search, display, and equal to social media advertising. We suspect that numbers for direct mail will increase as technology and quicker production and delivery options continue to advance. It’s also great to see the integrated approach marketers are taking, especially since response rates increase by an average of 30% when direct mail is paired with digital targeting.

The “Direct Mail Isn’t Dead” Chart

The below chart showing response by various media is one we use frequently, and not so much because it shows direct mail in a more positive light than digital media. The point we want to make is that direct mail is not dead. It did not all the sudden stop working when digital media started gaining traction. And it is a high-response medium whether you are mailing to Generation Z or retired Boomers. The false notion that direct mail is dead is a reminder to us that both direct mail and digital firms are in a unique position to show how combining new media with traditional media can produce very positive results. Email is inexpensive and therefore has some of the highest ROI. All of the media options in the chart are great additions to your marketing mix.

The “Wait, Direct Mail Really Works?” Chart

This is a chart ANA/DMA has in the report every year. And every year it’s equally hilarious – not because we find it absurd (on the contrary). But because every year a handful of marketers doubt their future use of direct mail, but ANA/DMA is always quick to point out that year after year, what these marketers predict is never fully realized. We are not quite sure what to make of this phenomenon but we’re guessing that the handful of doubters might be direct mail newbies who just needed to catch the bug.

The “Direct Mail Drives Web Traffic” Chart

We will share one more interesting chart from the report and it’s the direct mail response rate tracking methods by survey participants. This chart is interesting because it shows that direct mail is driving web traffic. Print driving web traffic is one of those topics where there just isn’t as much reliable data to go off of pointing to marketers having success. You know they are because it’s the number one way they track response rates from direct mail campaigns…but further data on the topic, if it’s out there, is not generating much buzz.

The next ANA/DMA Response Rate Report will likely be coming out later this year and we are already looking forward to digging into it and seeing what has changed and what has not. As always, we’ll have a lot to say about it and we hope response rates for direct mail continue the upward momentum.

Sources: ANA/DMA Response Rate Report 2018; ANA/DMA Response Rate Report 2017