Wiland Blog

Data Privacy and Direct Mail

How are evolving consumer data privacy laws and public perceptions affecting the ways that marketers tailor their direct mail campaigns?

By Bryn Weaver | October 27, 2022


Last week, our friends at SeQuel Response released their 2022 Direct Mail Industry Benchmark Study, titled Direct Mail: Signed, Sealed, and Still Delivering Results. It’s an excellent report that leverages the insights of B2B and B2C marketers to analyze the effectiveness of direct mail marketing. It explores how marketers are navigating the unique challenges of mailing today and how marketers are integrating digital and direct mail strategies to run high-performing multichannel campaigns.

Did You Know?

According to SeQuel Response, direct mail delivers the highest ROI of all media. Nine out of ten consumers engage with promotional mail, and 97% of survey respondents reported steady direct mail performance over the past year₁.

As part of this report, I spoke with SeQuel Response about the dynamic consumer data privacy landscape and how it’s affecting the use of data in direct mail marketing campaigns, both today and moving forward. We also discussed how marketers can prepare to address data privacy requirements and set themselves up for future success.

To read my full conversation with SeQuel Response on this topic, you can download the report here. Meanwhile, here are three key takeaways from our discussion.

The consumer data privacy landscape continues to evolve.

Conversations around data privacy started to pick up steam in the U.S. around 2018. This was partly fueled by Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force and California’s passing of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that year, as well as by multiple news headlines about data breaches at well-known online platforms. Since then, both the media and consumers have more frequently inquired about organizations’ practices regarding the collection and use of consumer data. Organizations have had to grapple with a flurry of new U.S. state privacy laws enacted after 2018 and multiple amendments to the CCPA, all while keeping an eye on various federal legislative and regulatory proposals about consumer privacy—quite a challenge indeed.

This dynamic privacy landscape has given impetus to ongoing, important discussions about the ethical use of data in marketing. It has also driven conversations about how organizations and society as a whole can collectively find a solution that is workable and beneficial for both consumers and the U.S. economy. At Wiland, we think that finding that kind of solution is critical, and we wholeheartedly support constructive discussions on this topic. The increasingly privacy-focused landscape has also caused direct marketers who rely on the effectiveness of data-driven marketing to carefully evaluate their own data practices.

Both online and offline data are affected by data privacy regulations.

Online data and digital marketing have been at the forefront of much of the recent data privacy dialogue—and in part drove the adoption of some of the new state laws—but offline data is also very much within the purview of these laws. Even marketers who only handle offline data still need to pay attention to new developments and ensure that their data practices are compliant with the law and consistent with their organization’s values.

The good news is that the best practices that have long informed direct mail marketing provide a great foundation for building an omnichannel privacy program today. Some significant extensions and expansions of those practices will be necessary, but success is possible with collaboration, focus, and planning.

As noted in my discussion with SeQuel Response, I think that the biggest thing that will affect direct mail marketers in upcoming data privacy legislation is that some new state laws could restrict the availability of certain types of demographic information by defining them as “sensitive” and requiring opt-in consent to use them. Demographic information should never be used to discriminate against individuals, and there are many longstanding industry practices and legal protections that help prevent that. But ethical marketers often use basic demographic information in a positive way, tailoring advertising to ensure that consumers receive offers that are relevant to them. While these affirmative marketing strategies could become more difficult, there are conversations happening among industry groups, legislators, and regulators, to find a solution that promotes both consumer protection and legitimate advertising.

The time to talk data privacy compliance is now.

Today’s data privacy conversations and upcoming regulations will not prohibit ethical direct marketing. However, tailoring direct marketing to match consumer preferences will require more thought and effort moving forward.

Brands and organizations should be having conversations with all of the necessary stakeholders now to ensure that they have an approach to data privacy that addresses current and upcoming requirements in a way that is consistent with the goals and values of their organization. The best data privacy strategies are those that facilitate mutually beneficial marketing outcomes, consumer peace of mind, relevant and effective advertising, and legal compliance.

The time to talk data privacy with marketing and data partners is also now. Many companies like Wiland seek to go beyond the minimum requirements of the law when it comes to data privacy. It’s a fundamental value that Wiland holds, and as I note in my conversation with SeQuel Response, we believe that many other partners in the marketing data ecosystem share that perspective.

2022 Direct Mail Industry Benchmark Study, Direct Mail: Signed, Sealed, and Still Delivering Results. 2022, SeQuel Response.