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Automotive Direct Mail ideas


Automotive Direct Mail: 7 Best Practices [+14 examples]

Automotive direct mail can help you deliver a customer experience that is both practical and meaningful. Consider these 7 automotive direct mail ideas.

Since Who’s Mailing What! first began, we have included automotive direct mail in our collection. And with good reason.

The automotive industry is a major contributor to the U.S. economy. Statistics from 2020 tell some of the story:

  • The industry accounted for a share of $627 billion in the U.S. economy (about 3% of GDP)
  • 14.5 million light vehicles were sold, down from 2019, but more than expected given the shutdowns forced by the pandemic
  • Sales of electric vehicles actually grew 14.9% over 2019

In addition, cars (and trucks, motorcycles, etc.) are a unique and important part of our culture. People buy them for recreational reasons as much as for transportation, and keep spending money on them for service, parts, and upgrades of all kinds.

Automotive direct mail advertising is an important way to drive customers to showrooms, car lots, service centers, aftermarket suppliers, and websites.

Fortunately, right now is a perfect time to build your business with offers to prospects and customers.


  • Drivers have lots of disposable income due to spending less last year on long-distance trips, entertainment, and dining
  • Pent-up demand is driving up the price of both new and used vehicles
  • A return to work, school, and shopping equals more cars on the road for more, longer trips
  • Maintenance is no longer being deferred due to a lessened need or financial pressures

More than any time in memory, your automotive direct mail campaigns need to stand out in the customer’s mailbox. It’s not easy, as there is a lot of competition in many segments of this gigantic industry.

7 Best Practices for Automotive Direct Mail

Fortunately, your mail piece can put a variety of tactics to work, and get customers moving through your doors. Each of these maximizes a stage in the proven AIDA model.

1. Provide Something Tangible

Automotive direct mail makes the most out of being a physical, tactile channel. A brochure or self-mailer can be a starting point to consider buying a vehicle or getting service.

Coupons are a terrific tactile way to put an offer in the hands of your customers. They’re enormously popular in automotive direct mail campaigns. Grease Monkey, for example, put two of them on this July 2020 small postcard. It works because:

  • The dollar-off amount is prominent
  • It is made clear that the coupon has to be physically presented at the point-of-sale
  • The benefits of the service discounted with the coupon are listed with bullet points

Grease Monkey automotive direct mail

Here’s another example, a postcard mailed by a Honda dealership in Indiana. It works because:

  • The entire mailing must be returned at the dealership
  • The driver is incentivized to test drive a vehicle with a gift card offer
  • Other cash amount offers provide more reasons to visit

Honda dealership automotive direct mail

2. Celebrate Seasons and Holidays

Summer and winter are key seasons for car servicing. People want to feel comfortable (AC, heat) as well as safe (overheating, long trips, icy and snowy weather). But, they often need reminders.

This mailing from Mopar from February 2021 shows wintry scenes on the front and a headline: “Winter road conditions are here”. It works because:

  • On this side, under the “Did you know?” headline, the company asks if the driver has taken care of possible concerns for their car, such as “Swapping to Winter Tires” and “Checking Your Battery”
  • Coupons offer discounts on services
  • Seasonal maintenance is carried out by “factory-trained technicians”, which should provide peace of mind

Mopar automotive direct mail

Besides seasons, the calendar provides a guide for other times to develop campaigns around. Popular ones include: Independence Day, Thanksgiving, New Year’s, Back-to-School, and in the case of this Midas postcard from August 20202, Labor Day. It works because:

  • Large type headline across the front
  • Eye-catching U.S. flag graphic
  • 2 coupons with special pricing offers

Midas automotive direct mail

3. Promote Your Endorsements

You want your customers to trust you. But your words — on your automotive direct mail or inside your doors — only go so far. The experiences and opinions of trained experts and authorities can help build credibility.

Subaru highlights the recognition accorded to its vehicles in this March 2021 postcard. It works because:

  • Its safety rating is highlighted on the front just below the headline “Trust always gets you farther”
  • The address side breaks down professional outside ratings by Quality, Safety, and Value with logos for each authority
  • The back also includes an offer for 2 years of free maintenance by “Factory Trained Teams” using “Genuine Subaru Parts”

Subaru automotive direct mail

Many customers pay attention to or even seek out endorsements or ratings advice from fellow consumers, from Yelp, Facebook, and other sources. Toledo Auto Care, for example, included a customer testimonial on this postcard from March 2021. It works because:

  • The large Google logo and 5-star rating stand out on the front
  • A customer testimonial like this one can also be a powerful way to bolster your reputation
  • The logo for ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification also carries some weight

Toledo Auto Care automotive direct mail

4. Send Postcards

Postcards are popular in automotive direct mail because they’re simple but versatile, and can be mailed at reasonable postage rates. Just look at all of the other postcards featured in this article. To make a quick impact, be sure not to crowd your postcard. Carefully use white space and copy to focus the customer on your message or offers.

This Toyota postcard, mailed in July 2021, emphasizes the dealer’s customer service. It works because:

  • The offer at top stands out because it’s in reversed-out white type, with “Free” and “For Life” bolded
  • Bullet-pointed benefits are easy to follow
  • The copy in the burst explains more about the offer

Toyota automotive direct mail

Here’s another good postcard. This Memorial Day campaign was mailed by Town & Country Jeep Chrysler Dodge in May 2021 It works because:

  • It’s vertically-oriented on both sides, which stands out in the mailbox.
  • The upgrade offer is personalized and includes a PIN to access it on the website
  • A QR code lets the driver get to the website easier (see below)

Dodge automotive direct mail

5. Leverage Personal Data

Today’s automotive direct mail doesn’t have to be mass mail. When you leverage data that you have (or should have) on your customer and their vehicles, you can speak to them regularly on a 1-to-1 basis.

Here’s an example of variable data printing (VDP) on a mailer to a Chevrolet driver from August 2021. It works because:

  • It lists the number of rewards points earned to date
  • Recommended services based on their profile are shown
  • Complete loyalty program information is available on the website

Chevrolet automotive direct mail

Personal data doesn’t always have to appear only on a mail piece. This August 2021 self-mailer from Volvo directs the consumer to go to the PURL (Personalized URL) shown on the mailing to view their customized offer. It works because:

  • The odd dollar amount discount — “$1,181” — seems more credible
  • Using a PURL builds anticipation for the offer
  • The letter is from a person with their contact information included

Volvo automotive direct mail

6. Reward Loyalty

I mentioned it before but it bears repeating: this sector is very competitive. Whether it’s dealers or stores selling vehicles, or shops selling parts and repairs, a better deal may be just around the corner or down the road. When done right, automotive direct mail campaigns keep your customers engaged with your brand and away from your competitors.

Here’s one example from Advance Auto Parts, mailed in September 2020. It works because:

  • It includes the logo for the retailer’s rewards program (SpeedPerks)
  • The headline “We’ve missed you!” acknowledges that the customer hasn’t been back in a while
  • The jumbo postcard has a big image and large type headlines on the front — all good for grabbing attention
  • Incentives like a purchase discount and bonus points are offered
  • The smaller type describes changes to the program and includes more details on the offer

Advance Auto Parts automotive direct mail

Automakers too, promote loyalty, as Nissan did in this June 2021 mailing. It works because:

  • The large image stretching across the front of the postcard shows the 2 models promoted
  • The “Private Offer” leverages exclusivity, an emotional copy driver
  • A $500 incentive is offered

Nissan automotive direct mail

7. Make the CTA Easy

It should be as simple as possible for a customer to take action once they’ve been convinced that they want or need to. Notice how so many of these examples have readable type in headlines and calls-to-action? Whatever you want the customer to do, it must stand out from the rest of the copy, so it won’t be missed.

This postcard from Speed Auto Repair was mailed in June 2021, It works because:

  • The phone number is in reversed-out white type on a darker background
  • It shows the website
  • It includes the street address, including zip code, and also a mini-map

Speed Auto Repair automotive direct mail

Here’s another example, in a letter mailed by a Bentley dealer in June 2021. This effort targeted a very different audience than most of the other samples highlighted above. It works because:

  • It was mailed in an invitation-style envelope
  • Words like “exclusive invitation”, “RSVP”, and “reserve” speak to the very select segment the campaign was mailed to
  • The response phone number and email seem more personal than a vanity or toll-free number or generic email address like (info@ or sales@)

Bentley automotive direct mail

Get Inspired by Successful Automotive Direct Mail Campaigns Using Who’s Mailing What!

You don’t have to go far to find examples of good automotive direct mail to inspire your work as a marketer, designer, or writer.

Members of Who’s Mailing What! can search on the entire Automotive subcategory.

After all, how better to learn what to do — as well as what not to do — than by viewing the creatives sent by your competitors?

Here’s how to find them:

  1. After logging in to the website, click on the Search option from the Dashboard.
  2. On the left side of the page, you’ll see Industry as one of the options under Filters.
  3. In the text search box under the Industry heading, type Automotive, then select it from the list generated

According to the latest count, Who’s Mailing What! lists 4,852 mailing pieces in the Automotive subcategory.

Sign up to access 10 mail campaigns of your choice for free.

Final Thoughts

Automotive direct mail can help you deliver a customer experience that is both practical and meaningful. In every type of mail piece, whether it’s a postcard or folded self-mailer, you have the opportunity to go beyond mere transactions.

Mail helps you build a relationship that’s centered on the driver’s wants and needs. And once you make that first sale — whether it’s a new vehicle or just an oil change — your customer contact can include other products or services that strengthen their loyalty to your company or brand.

Hopefully, these examples sparked ideas that can help you drive successful automotive direct mail. With Who’s Mailing What! you can consider possibilities that make your job easier and your customers’ lives better.

Direct Mail Evangelist

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Daniel

    October 20, 2021 at 7:36 pm

    Paul, thanks for the article and thanks for highlighting one of our campaigns. You better believe I’m using this article to educate our team on the power of Direct Mail! I’ve also enjoyed many of the other articles on this website.

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