If it seems like your mailbox is brimming with direct mail advertising these days, you are not imagining things. After three years of declines, spending on everything from simple postcards to glossy brochures is rising.
“I’ve seen more large stacks of direct mail at my doorstep,” said Rachel Hambick, a 31-year-old resident of Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood. “There are a lot of them,” mostly from grocery stores and restaurants.

Direct-mail advertising sales rose 3.1 percent last year, a significant turnaround from the previous three-year drop of 20 percent, according to New-York-based marketing consulting firm Winterberry Group LLC. The firm is forecasting a 5.8 percent increase in direct mail spending for 2011.

Bob Lieber, CEO of marketing strategy and services firm Original Thought LLC, said the increase is due to the overall improvement in business conditions.

“As companies see the economy turning around, they tend to increase their spending on marketing, because so many of them have cut back their spending during the recession,” Lieber said.

Glenn Cummins, national marketing manager of Ed Bristol Advertising & Printing Inc., observed that business is definitely busier than it was last year. “More direct mail printing business is coming in because the economy is rebounding,” he pointed out.

The deep recession in the financial services industry contributed to the cuts in direct mail, but marketers and retailers also shied away from it in favor of digital media, especially email, according to Winterberry Group.

But Hebert Rivero, owner of Minuteman Press, argued that the pendulum seems to now be swinging away from digital marketing and back to snail mail.

“People are not opening their emails the way they used to, because there’s too many, so they just delete marketing emails pretty readily,” he said.

Hambick agreed. “The emails I’m signed up for, they seem to email me several times a week, which is almost too much. You become desensitized to it.”

Rivero believes that is one reason why his business is up. He noted that in addition to stronger demand for direct mail, retailers’ pursuit of higher quality paper also contributed to the bounce-back in direct mail spending.

“Our retailer clients have done a lot of homework to give their mailers a certain look so that people would be more likely to open [them] and look at their marketing products,” he said.

Rivero observed that spending on commercial postcard printing has experienced the biggest gain, followed by newsletters.

“We’re entering a period where inflation is going to start to set in and people are going to try to raise their prices as demand increases,” Lieber explained. “It will drive marketers to try to be more efficient, so they will try to make inexpensive formats successful, for example, the postcard mailing.”

After primarily distributing coupons and fliers to local residents’ mailboxes, Hassib Blan, owner of the Olive Mountain restaurant in Evanston, is investing in direct mail.

“The economy is getting better, so we’re also putting more money into advertising,” Blan said. “We want to get more people coming to try our food.”

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Orginaly posted by: Dorothy Zhang on medill.northwestern.edu