Innovation brings mail back from grave

Ofcom’s plan to let Royal Mail decide on its own postal rates may have raised a few eyebrows in the direct marketing industry, but even trade body the DMA has been forced to concede that a fresh approach is needed.
Despite fears that business mailers will still be footing the bill for ever-decreasing volumes, most agree that a healthy dose of competition is just what is required to kick-start the direct mail market.
Mailshots have come a long way since the first one was sent – apparently in about 1000BC, when an Egyptian landowner wrote an ad on a piece of papyrus for the return of a runaway slave. Whether he inspired his 20th century British counterparts John Watson and Drayton Bird to follow suit is another matter, although anyone wanting to pick up some tips will be pleased to know the original letter was exhumed from the ruins of Thebes and can now be seen in the British Museum.
But one thing is certain, despite predictions of its death, direct mail is proving a highly resilient medium – even in these times of digital ubiquity. Only last week, a survey among TNT Post customers revealed that advertising mail was not only holding its own against the digital onslaught, it was actually growing.
The vast majority of those surveyed (76%) expect mail volumes to remain stable or grow in the next twelve months, while 69% believe that direct mail is the most important promotional medium, followed by website at 33%, and email at 20.4%. The positive outlook reflects a resurgence of spending on direct mail by financial services and FMCG companies.
It is hardly harking back to the glory years of the mid-to-late Eighties when brand owners regularly mailed the whole country to promote their wares. Bung in the privatisations of former state monopolies like BT and British Gas and it is easy to see why posties’ mailbags – as well as a few agency chiefs’ wallets – were groaning under the weight.
In fact the rise of digital has led to greater innovation within the mailing sector. Most recently brand owners are now being offered the chance to target consumers with “talking direct mail”, following the launch of a new business from web-to-print software specialist Print Fair and Really Wild Cards.
And Royal Mail offers a range of different mailing technologies, including Sensational Mail, which enables advertisers to build sensory triggers – like smell – into their direct mail, as well as chocolate mailpacks. It has also linked with Sony for a service that allows companies to send customised CD/DVDs to individual consumers.
The eBridge scheme uses a unique code so every CD/DVD can be tailored to the recipient. The postal operator claims the package makes direct mail more accountable and measurable than ever before – meaning enormous opportunities for marketers.
Airline Lufthansa was one of the first to use the scheme. Its agency Wunderman sent out 5,000 packs to encourage travel agents to sign up for a loyalty programme. A further object was to increase the awareness among small travel agencies of Lufthansa’s customer loyalty programme – “eXperts”. From this campaign, more than 60% of the target audience signed up for the loyalty programme.
And Harrogate International Centre claimed a 11,000:1 return on investment by focusing on a small but targeted group of clients who had previously held events at the venue. Each was sent a personalised chocolate heart on Valentine’s Day. Follow-up calls have already led to one association contracting their event with HIC and five further events are still in the pipeline.
These examples may be a far cry from the papyrus letter of ancient Egypt – and pretty unlikely to be on display in the British Museum in a 3,000 years’ time – but they do show that the medium is a long way from being consigned to the marketing tomb.

Related stories
Royal Mail to set its own prices
Direct mail ‘alive and kicking’
Brands offered ‘talking direct mail’

Print Friendly

2 Comments on "Innovation brings mail back from grave"

  1. How come I never get a chocolate mailer????

  2. What’s your address Jen, I’ll pop something in the post for you! x

Comments are closed.