You’ve seen the stats:

  • 84% of Millennials take the time to look through their mail.1
  • 64% of Millennials would rather scan for useful information in the mail than email. 1
  • 77% of Millennials pay attention to direct mail advertising.2
  • 90% of Millennials think direct mail advertising is reliable. 3
  • 87% of Millennials like receiving direct mail. 3

But why do Millennials like direct mail? And do they respond more to direct mail than other generations? These are important questions because, as of 2015, Millennials have become the largest demographic in the workforce, with very specific attitudes and needs. To craft mailings that work for this generation, we have to understand what motivates them differently than other generations. We don’t often see those questions addressed.

The answer to the second question—do Millennials respond differently to mail than other generations—is yes. According to the USPS “Mail moments: 2016 Review,” compared to other generations, Millennials are  . . .

Millennials Non-Millennials
More likely to scan their mail 71% 66%
Less likely to discard their mail without reading it 54% 59%
More likely to organize and sort their mail 45% 40%
More likely to take time to read their mail 36% 35%
More likely to show their mail to others 24% 19%

In addition, 57% have made purchases based on direct mail offers.4

Why is this? The answer may come from the Quad/Graphics study: novelty. According to the study, nearly half of Millennials ignore digital ads, while only 15% of Millennials ignore direct mail. Citing this data, the USPS observes, “Apparently, direct mail—which comes only once a day—has become a novelty to this audience.” 5

This is an important point. Millennials enjoy direct mail because, in their digitally engaged worlds, it’s different. It breaks the monotony.

Not Just Any Old Direct Mail

This doesn’t mean that any old direct mail will do. Millennials are very clear about how they want brands to market to them, whether in print or in digital form. I’ve been watching the data on Millennials for some time now, and it boils down to authenticity, focus on the experience rather than merely on specs, and often some kind of socio-ethical tie-in, such as serving the disadvantaged or protecting the environment.

Thus it was no surprise to read the USPS’s list of suggestions for how to create engaging mail pieces for Millennials. It offered six points:

  1. Incorporate digital elements. Embed QR Codes, NFC, or AR to link the mailer to video and interactive materials on your website or social media sites.
  2. Keep your messaging succinct. Provide bite-size pieces of information. Millennials may love mail, but they are still distracted and living in a highly fractured media environment.
  3. Be authentic. “Millennials distrust traditional advertising, so avoid hard sell language. Use a straightforward, transparent approach.”
  4. Use enhancements. Think scent, sound, or texture.
  5. Help them feel that their purchase makes a difference in the world. “Campaigns that donate a percentage of profits to a worthy cause or in some other way demonstrate corporate responsibility can resonate if they are seen as authentic.”
  6. Minimize slang, which can be seen as inauthentic. “Use slang with caution, even if you are Millennial yourself, or you risk turning off your audience.”

Take This Example for a Spin

The USPS gave the example of one real-life direct mail campaign for bicycles. The marketer took a current lifestyle trend—biking to work—and used it as the context for its campaign. The front of the mailer read, “Want to make your commute to work happier? Try trading in your car for a bike.” On the back, it read, “It’s true. Studies show that people who bike to work are the happiest of all commuters.”

This would appeal to Millennials on a lot of levels. It’s succinct. It’s direct and real. The value of the product is in the rider’s experience (the happiest of all commuters) rather than, say, the amount of money saved on gas.

On the back of the mailer, the marketer invites the recipient to go online to find out more, and “while you’re there, take our interactive quiz to find out how much you can reduce your carbon footprint by switching to bike commuting.”  There’s the social responsibility tie-in.

This campaign has all of the elements of a great direct mail campaign with a high level of appeal to Millennials, and it’s very different from that for other buyers (focusing on benefits and quantitative savings, such as gas or commuting time).

Millennials offer a real bright spot in the world of direct mail, but they require a different marketing approach. So if you don’t currently have a “Millennial marketing” specialty, you might want to develop one.

  1. USPS Mail Moments: 2016 Review, March 2016
  2. “Millennials: An Emerging Consumer Powerhouse,” Quad/Graphics, March 2016
  3. Felicia Savage, “Don’t Hide in the Bushes: How to Use Direct Mail to Target Millennials,” PERQ, October 28, 2013
  4. “Direct Mail vs. Social Media | Q&A Showdown,” Divvy, January 15, 2016. http://divvyonline.com/direct-mail-vs-social-media-20160115
  5. “Still Relevant: A Look at How Millennials Respond to Direct Mail,” USPS 2017.