It’s no surprise that political consultants and campaign fundraisers utilize direct mail both for fundraising and persuasion purposes. It’s a channel that has been used for decades to convey candidates’ messages to potential voters. But in a 3.0 world, does mail still have power?
Clearly, the answer is yes!
Otherwise, why would people keep investing in it election after election? Amid the sound bites, lawn signs and print ads, direct mail is still utilized by local, state and federal campaigns across the country for several reasons:
Voters read their mail—According to the 2008 DMNews/Pitney Bowes Direct Mail Survey, more than 8 out of 10 survey respondents (85%) say they review their mail daily.
Mail can influence voter knowledge and attitudes—Direct mail allows for the inclusion of longer messages than other mediums, which means mailers can clearly define a candidate’s campaign platform or address a single issue head-on. And, since it’s tangible, it can be a very handy reference tool for people who are voting by mail when they fill out their ballot at home.
Mail is a flexible form of communication that can support multiple goals—Not only do people have flexibility in the physical formats available, but they also have flexibility in what mail can do for them. Whether people are trying to increase voter turnout, recruit volunteers, maximize donations or generate attendance at campaign events, mail can be an impactful tool.
But to truly capitalize on this channel in today’s political world, it is important to utilize new print technologies and ensure the media channels being used are working together to drive the same message home to voters.
Utilize New Technologies
There are many new technologies that can enhance the raw power of mail. One thing I’m a fan of is personalization through Variable Data Printing (VDP). VDP is a form of on-demand printing that can be used to produce mail pieces that are personalized to a customer’s individual data. And the benefits of VDP can be substantial:
Digital print allows each piece of mail to be relevant to the recipient by placing appropriate images and text in established variable fields.
It doesn’t require the longer set up times that offset presses require. Once creative is completed, a data file can be sent to the press and printed in minutes.
In a VDP environment, maps and graphics specific to the recipients’ address can be inserted to guide them to a certain campaign event or polling station.
The latest advancements in VDP allow mailers to seamlessly integrate collected voter data into a mail piece. The only real limitation with VDP is one’s imagination, allowing mailers to be creative with new and unique ways to grab a voter’s attention.(To find out more about some of these latest technologies and to see how some campaigns are utilizing them today, check out Lasting Impressions or Wild Dunes Resort: Why the Power of Personalization Persists from the pages of Deliver Magazine.)
Mail is a Team Player
Many people go to great lengths to create an identity for their candidates through print ads, TV spots and the candidate’s website. So where does direct mail fit in?
Direct mail has always worked in tandem with other forms of advertising. Not only can one utilize direct mail as a vehicle to increase the effectiveness of print ads or TV spots, but mailers should also think of it as extensions of these elements. Continue campaign logo design elements and key messages so the mail piece that arrives in voter’s hands reinforces the messages of the radio ad they heard, the TV spot they watched and the website they visited.
The mail gives campaign managers the opportunity to speak directly to voters in a way they will find relevant, interesting, intriguing. It offers the ability to get precise information to a specific group of people in a way that enhances campaign messages in all other channels.
So, yes, mail can survive in this ever-changing world. It’s up to us to evolve it by always challenging how we use it. Karen Tucker is the manager of transaction mail for the U.S. Postal Service and is spearheading a comprehensive national plan for managing the Postal Service’s increasingly critical role in U.S. elections.