By its very name, direct mail seeks to do away with the middle man. It goes right to the jugular in promoting a product and/or service. Sent to prospective customers or patrons via the post office as printed material, it can reach its target with great immediacy. Of all direct marketing methods, it is the most common form.
Mail being the third (or fourth) advertising medium after newspapers and TV (not counting the Internet), direct mail can hit a specific target audience. Advertisers using this method have the extra advantage of being able to avail of bulk mailing permit with reduced rates.
Flyers and door hangers, on the other hand, have a much smaller range. Flyers specialize in local advertising, same as door hangers, which even has a smaller scope.
All three, direct mail, flyers, and door hangers, are forms of direct marketing. They choose not to take advantage of the media to advertise their purposes. Direct mail by far has a greater coverage area but has been saddled with a negative reputation.
Ever since junk mail (first attested in 1954, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary) came into vogue, direct mail has been exploited for its obvious advantages, the biggest being its ability to reach a huge portion of the population. Direct mail is sent by the tens of thousands to homes and offices every month. All postal customers in a certain area or all customers on a list may have direct mail sent to them.
Direct mail’s “success” in reaching its target is a double-edged sword. It is considered irrelevant by the majority of its recipients. Direct marketers counter that they provide “opt out” lists, more environment-friendly printing methods, and recycled paper. This resistance is proof of the presumed value of direct mail to marketers.
Flyers and door hangers, even with the employment of flyer delivery service and flyer distribution, are not intended to compete with direct mail in terms of numbers. The same goes with door hangers. Despite doorhanger delivery and door hanger distribution, their range is just too limited.
What these two methods of direct marketing have on their side, though, is directness and personalized access. People who distribute flyers person to person or door to door, have the opportunity to answer questions regarding the product or service advertised in the handbills, gauging their reaction to the activity, positive or negative.
Door hangers have a more subtle approach to marketing. However, door hangers despite their incognito approach, get results, because it is highly likely that the advertised item is already of great interest to the people in the neighborhood or locality where the door hangers are distributed.
Their modest means and aims also play to their advantage. Flyers and door hangers have very little print run, so advertisers save on expenses. Direct mail requires tons of paper and gallons of ink to produce. There is good reason that environmentalists have been riding them to put a stop to their activities.
Flyers, door hangers, and direct mail are all unsolicited material but the latter is by far the most unwelcome by the target market. The unflattering terms “junk mail” and “crap mail” are some of the choice pejoratives it gets.
Advocates have slyly boasted of direct mail’s effectiveness by citing the responses it also gets through the mail. What it conveniently neglects to cite is that many of these responses are negative reactions of people to the junk mail they received. Direct marketers call this a perfect example of direct measurement, whereas other methods of marketing can only do with indirect measurement.
The methods that flyers, door hangers, and direct mail use to reach their intended targets may vary; their claims of success are at best open to interpretation. Based on the fact that they continue to use their particular techniques is proof enough of their effectiveness to each its own.