American Marketer


Direct mail and luxury brands

February 5, 2013

Deirdre Woollard


By Deirdre Woollard

The U.S. Postal Service is raising prices and shutting down branches, but so-called snail mail is heating up when it comes to the luxury market.

Direct mail has decreased in recent years simply because direct marketers can reach millions through email with far less money and hassle. Our mailboxes get a break, while our inboxes are bulging.

Check the mail
Luxury marketers continue to use mail because it works and because it is easier to convey luxury in tactile form.

Even the most elegant and well-designed of emails do not have the impact of a softly glossy mailer rich with stunning images. The high transaction value of luxury products still make direct mail worth the spend.

Another value of direct mail is retention factor.

These days as businesspeople everywhere fight their way to inbox zero, emails can tend to either be deleted or archived in a place where they will be forgotten.

While email has the advantage of being able to send the receiver directly to a Web site, a physical mailer has the advantage of potentially lingering around where its images will be appreciated multiple times.

Luxury brands still advertise in print magazines and send out mailings for the same reason. There is something intrinsically pleasurable about flipping through pages and taking in beauty.

These mailers still list the company Web sites and social media accounts and many include QR codes so that those who want to learn more online can easily do so.

Jewelry brands such as Cartier and Boucheron have recently used the power of direct mail.

Although auction houses such as Sotheby’s offer the latest technology when it comes online bidding, they also still produce catalogs because their customers use them to decide on potential purchases. It is a bit like showrooming – the offline component fuels online purchase.

Content marketing in print form
Thompson Hotels and other brands have embraced the growing trend of content marketing in print form.

Brands no longer need to rely on luxury magazines to deliver a rich experience to their customers. They can create their own editorial.

Luxury magazine veteran Jason Binn partnered with Gilt Groupe to create DuJour magazine, a magazine that has both a digital and a glossy print component.

Magazines produced by brands provide an opportunity for enhanced storytelling without being overtly sales-oriented.

Brand-sponsored print magazines have an edge over simple mailers because if the content is compelling enough, the customer will keep the magazine around and potentially share it with others.

In today’s market with increasingly distracted consumers, remaining top of mind is vital.

Direct mail has an advantage because it reaches people in the offline space rather than in the online space where they are constantly besieged with brands demanding attention and notice.

Growing trend of box mailings
A refreshed angle to direct mail marketing is placement in one of the many new box-of-the-month products.

In many of these new startups such as beauty sample mailers like Birchbox, customers essentially pay to be marketed to, receiving a box of test-size products each month for a small fee.

Magazine publisher Sandow recently launched an interior design resource kit called LuxeBox, a free gift for new owners and active buyers of homes that are worth $1 million or more.

The LuxeBox which includes a design portfolio, an iPad case, stationery, a stainless steel measuring tape and a two-year subscription to Sandow’s Luxe Interiors + Design, is both a gift and a savvy piece of marketing designed to spark interest in design and remodeling. It is also a value add for Sandow’s brand partners because it targets their ideal market.

TODAY’S LUXURY brand needs to reach consumers wherever they are.

While mobile marketing represents a highly advantageous opportunity because it can impact consumers at the moment of purchase, direct mail still has a very powerful hook when it comes to reaching purchasers of all ages.

Deirdre Woollard is community manager at, Los Angeles. Reach her at