Media Mix 2020, Part 2: Is Direct Mail Dead?

Are television ads, direct mail, and digital display ads worth the investment? Marketing Your Hospital explored where hospital marketers should spend their marketing dollars in 2020. We’ll share what we found in this three-part series. In this second part, we take a closer look at direct mail. And be sure to check out Part 1: Is TV advertising dead?

In our first Media Mix 2020 post, we discussed the value of television advertising, even in the wake of digital recording and online streaming. But what about direct mail? Like TV advertising, direct mail is costly, while email blasts are cheap. Is direct mail worth the paper it’s printed on? Yes, yes, yes.

direct mail and letters piled high in a mailbox

It’s true, direct mail took a sharp decline after the Great Recession—it was just too expensive for a lot of companies to produce and mail. But it’s been on the rise again since 2015, according to a report by PRIMIR (Print Industries Market Information and Research Organization). And it remains one of the most effective marketing tactics in your hospital marketing arsenal.

Unbeatable Response Rates

The reason marketers are returning to direct mail is its stellar response rates. Direct mail, like postcards and hospital magazines, continues to beat all forms of internet marketing. Direct mail boasts response rates that are five to nine times higher than email, paid search, and social media. The response rate for direct mail to targeted prospects in 2018 was almost 5 percent, which is the highest since the Association of National Advertisers started keeping track in 2003. Even more impressive was the response rate among house lists—a whopping 9 percent. In contrast, email response rates hover around 1 percent.

A Trustworthy Tactic

Internet marketing is ubiquitous, but consumers report they still have more trust in traditional forms of advertising. Direct mail is the third most trusted advertising channel behind television and print ads when it comes to making a purchase decision. Three-quarters of consumers say they trust direct mail ads and catalogs.

Direct mail also has more staying power as compared with digital marketing. Researchers in a Canadian neuromarketing study found consumers were more likely to understand and remember messaging from direct mail than email and digital display ads. It’s also 20 percent more persuasive, according to the study, “A Bias for Action.”

Direct Mail Important to Healthcare Marketing

Direct mail has a particularly significant place in healthcare marketing. The healthcare audience tends to skew older, and older adults, in general, are more likely to prefer printed materials over digital ones. In fact, according to a MarketingCharts study, direct mail was ranked the top purchase influencer among Baby Boomers, even besting recommendations from family and friends!


TotalCom Marketing is a full-service healthcare marketing and advertising agency that believes in getting great results from telling great stories – our clients’ stories. Contact us for more information or view our work here.