Zombie marketing channels: Three things that were dead, but aren’t.

Posted February 7, 2017 in by


If you work in marketing, I know you’ve seen phrases like this more than once, maybe more than once a week.

In my opinion, “______ is dead” is one of the most overused marketing blog phrases out there. It is click-bait and a half-truth. Most of the time if you see this phrase, whatever is “dead” is actually not dead at all. Instead, either one particular aspect of it is no longer working well, or it is moving to a more mature marketing or business model. Therefore, it is probably better than it had been in the past, but isn’t right for everyone or every business. That said, here are three proclaimed “dead” marketing channels, how they’re very much undead, and how they continue to evolve.



Direct mail is dead.

People thought that when email came around, snail mail was obsolete. I can tell you that I personally still receive direct marketing pieces, so I know for a fact it isn’t dead. What’s more personal than receiving a physical piece of mail (aside from a visit from a person)? This is the reason people still send wedding invites and thank-you cards through the mail. And according to the United States Postal Service, 67 percent of Americans feel that mail is more personal than the internet.

Because personalization is a major trend right now, I see this making an expensive come back. You may have noticed I used the word expensive. I see companies sending highly personal pieces of mail as an upcoming trend, not your old we-bought-a-list-and-everyone-gets-a-postcard direct mail. By going the extra mile to jazz up direct mail pieces, the cost per piece would go up. However, it would be sent to fewer people, so the cost could potentially even out. Also, there are more ways for people to respond to direct mail than ever before with the interconnected world we all live in. I follow Ellevest on LinkedIn and I know they send their new clients flowers. This also gets the buzz going on social for them.

Here are some other great examples of the types of direct mail I’m taking about.


 Email is dead.

I think it’s crazy that “email is dead” was ever a thing. In fact, 75 percent of companies agree that email offers “excellent” to “good” ROI. A recurring theme with each dead topic is blanket lists. Gone are the days of buying a random list of email addresses and sending out emails with the hope that someone responds or converts.

Email marketing is much more advanced now. Emails can be dynamically altered after they are sent. For example, say the email is sent saying that there are three days left in a sale. If the recipient doesn’t open the email for two days, the email will automatically update to say there is one day left in the sale. Emails are now designed (or should be) with a mobile-first mentality, which includes formatting and functionality. Interactivity and video break up the mundane feel of old-school emails you used to see. Email marketing isn’t going anywhere; it’s just getting better. If you want to test your company’s email maturity, here’s a great tool to do so from Adobe. We recently designed a direct mail piece for a client that actually sent a video that played once it was opened. Here’s one great example from Charity Water. It shows how much the recipient has donated and where they are on a timeline to show the actual progress being made from their donations.


Social media is dead. (Especially Facebook – it’s super dead.)

I think this rumor got started because once the popular social media sites gained millions of users, marketers noticed and jumped on board. With that, social media began to monetize, so marketers didn’t see the ROI they did previously because they thought it should be “free.” And let’s be real, for marketers, social media was never really free.

A good stat on the undead-ness of one social channel is that 79 percent of American internet users are on Facebook, and 76 percent of them visit the site daily. As social media has matured, using it randomly is no longer acceptable, just like with the other channels. Social media has become a preferred method of customer service for many companies, and consumers like to use it as such. As for marketing, social media is definitely pay-to-play. There was always a time and content creation cost involved with social, but now to get a message seen, you have to pony up a little dough. The good news is that there are ways to hyper target prospects on social media at a relatively low cost, depending on your objectives. In order to do social media right, it is imperative to know which site or sites an audience is on and market to that audience appropriately through that channel. B2B companies can usually utilize LinkedIn over Facebook. Retail businesses can utilize sites like Pinterest. Businesses that target millennials or Gen Z, might want to look into Instagram or Snapchat.

Many people still think of social media marketing as posts with images, and while that still works, it’s much more about video and creating buzz through the utilization of hashtags. Recently, Facebook decided to give preference to long video in the newsfeed. Because social campaigns are multifaceted, I can’t just post picture for you to look at. So, here are a few great examples of how social can be used effectively without just text and images. I can say from my own experience that the ads I see on my social accounts are usually highly relevant to me, so they are nonintrusive and have resulted in me making a purchase.


To sum it up, if you hear a marketing channel is dead, think twice before your marketing strategy attends its funeral, and instead prepare for its afterlife.

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