A standard meme in banking and other corporate IT circles has been rise of online and targeted marketing of customers. Gartner this year predicted the launch of a five-year, tenfold increase in online marketing technology spending, focusing on new ways of campaign and brand management to a Web 2.0 world. Financial services research outfit Synergistics recently tracked how one-tenth of Internet households made a “serious” financial decision based on a Web ad or social media source.

But none of this apparently means that direct mail, with its piddly 2 percent response rate, is dying. Despite tighter budgets, banks reported a 42 percent increase in their direct mail offers in the third quarter from the second quarter of 2008, according to a new survey from media tracking and analysis from Mintel Comperemedia. Mintel estimates there were 53 million offers mailed out to customers in the third quarter, to nearly double the output from a year ago at this time (29 million).

Those pieces included a 300-times increase in savings-related direct mail as banks tried to capture consumers who were looking for new venues for excess savings above FDIC-insured levels, or for money withdrawn from riskier ventures. Checking offers rose 90 percent from the second to the third quarter.

"As global financial markets shook, we saw many banks increase their direct marketing spend in an effort to hold on to the clients they had,” said Diana Sheehan, Mintel’s director of research. "So, as the market settles and financial institutions work to rebuild trust and profitability, we expect they'll continue with heightened direct marketing efforts to current clients, at least into early 2009."

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