Young Adults Still Prefer Offline Marketing Offers

By Tom Ryan, RetailWire

Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from one of RetailWire’s recent online discussions. Each business morning on, retail industry execs get plugged in to the latest news and issues with key insights from a “BrainTrust” panel of retail industry experts.

Despite the popularity of Facebook with the demographic, by a wide margin 18- to 34-year-olds still prefer to learn about marketing offers via postal mail and newspapers rather than online sources such as social media platforms, according to national survey from ICOM, a division of Epsilon Targeting.

The survey found that across a number of household, health and food products, the preference for 18- to 34-year-old Americans to receive marketing information from offline sources, led by mail and newspapers, is two to three times greater than online sources, such as social media. The one exception was travel, where online information was preferred to offline by a 42% to 35% margin.


Moreover, comparing results of the survey to one done two years ago, online sources are becoming even less trusted for information. Among respondents across all ages in the survey:

  • 36% of U.S. respondents in 2010 said information is more private if sent through the mail vs. email or online, up from 29% in 2008;
  • 25% said a lot of online information can’t be trusted, up from 19% in 2008;
  • For general products, 57% of U.S. respondents ranked friends and family as the “most trustworthy” sources of information. Newspapers ranked second, 26%; company web sites, 22%; television, 20%; and brochures and flyers, 18%. Among social media sites, Facebook ranked as 8% while both YouTube and Twitter came in at 7%.

“A key takeaway from this research is that marketers targeting coveted 18-34 year olds who are tempted to invest solely in social media could be missing a significant portion of their audience,” said Warren Storey, ICOM VP, in a statement. “For example, a consumer goods company that relies heavily on a female audience, especially moms, could fall short of expectations if it uses only the social media channel. Companies need to employ a multi-channel approach to gain maximum engagement with their customers.”

The 2010 study covered 2,569 U.S. households and 2,209 Canadian households.

The BrainTrust panel shared mixed sentiments on the results. Some were absolutely shocked that the survey results didn’t show younger shoppers depending on the Internet and their smart phones for every source of information.

“This is an interesting result and is in total contrast to what some are seeing in the marketplace. In researching several between that age group, many never read a newspaper and rarely open the mail. But everyone has their Internet phone glued to their person,” said Susan Rider, President of Rader and Associates, LLC.

Other panelists were pleasantly surprised 18- to 34-year-olds were turning their attention to newspapers and their mailbox.

“Newspapers came in second as a trustworthy source! That might be the most interesting fact from the survey,” said Bill Hanifin, managing director of Hanifin Loyalty, LLC. “I still see many moms with coupons in their hands. Maybe it is that they ‘know’ they have a deal when it is in their purse. Possibly, reading about the deal online is more for reference and less tangible.”

Despite contrasting opinions on the survey results, all panelists agreed that neither social media nor newspapers and mail advertisements should be used as marketing tools alone. All outlets should work together to be the most effective and in the end, reach a greater amount of people.

“Companies should look at social media as being one arrow in their marketing quiver. Social media is not the end all and be all of marketing,” said Max Goldberg, found partner of Radical Clarity Group. “The beauty of social media is that different campaigns can be quickly tested and evaluated. But traditional media still has a strong place in a well-balanced advertising campaign.”

Doug Stephens, president of Retail Prophet, shared a similar sentiment. “I think the big takeaway is that there really is no one media format capable of reaching a majority of any segment,” he said. “It’s not a matter of finding the best medium. It’s about developing the optimal mix.”

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