Why mail is a 'Cinderalla medium'

Why direct mail is the most powerful medium to get your brand or message noticed.

I came across this article recently from mediatel.co.uk (11/06/19). it puts together a great argument for the merits of direct mail in a very entertaining way...

Data junkie Patrick Collister explains why good old direct mail is the single most powerful medium to use if you simply want to get noticed

I used to be an enemy of data.
That’s because most of the data I got to see was either too much or too little to be either interesting or useful.
Then I started work at Google and everything changed.
I learned that data almost always leads to an insight. And an insight almost always leads to an idea. And if you can add impact to the idea then you have communication that works.
Today I’m a data junkie.
Yeah, gimme those numbers!
So, here are a few.
64% of direct mail gets opened the day it plops on the doormat.
66% gets read (over the course of JICMAIL’s tracking period.)
26% gets put aside to be studied later.

Now do a little test.
The Economist has said we are subjected to 3,000 selling messages a day.
(CBS News reported it as 5,000.)
How many adverts of any sort can you remember seeing in the last 24 hours?
Maybe one or two?
Most people struggle to remember a single one.

So, what the numbers tell me is that good ol’ DM is the single most powerful medium to use if you simply want to get noticed.

Here are a few more gob-smacking numbers.
After four weeks, 45% of direct mail is still lying around the home.
People look at it repeatedly. (According to JICMAIL, “Aspiring Homemakers” will look at a piece of finance DM an average of 4.23 times.)
13% of mailings will lead to a conversation about the brand.

What this means in real life is that a lot of direct mail is getting put on the sideboard, pinned to a corkboard in the kitchen or left on a desk for later.
It’s AIDA at work.
Awareness. Because there it is, physical and actual on your floor and you have to bend down to pick it up.
Interest. Because, thanks to accurate targeting, the message is relevant.
Which, given a bit of time, becomes Desire.
And, then, finally, Action.

I watched it happen in my own home a week ago.
A Boden catalogue arrived.
My wife will look at it sometime this week. Buy something the week after that. Maybe wait a month.
When I threw away a small pile of old catalogues, she looked at me in such a way that for a moment I was afraid, very afraid.
Branded content usually used to mean online video but, seriously, DM has the ability to engage in a way no other platform can match.
If you get an engagement rate of between one and three percent on Instagram, you’d be punching air.
Mail, the original interactive medium, gets infinitely more ‘shares’.
So why are so few media planners wowed by this revelation?

It’s because mail is a Cinderella medium.
It does all the hard work while its ugly sisters get all the attention.
It’s just not very fashionable.
It’s seen as workmanlike.
A bit dull.
It doesn’t have a charismatic spokesperson.
It doesn’t have awards shows at glitzy hotels.
It’s not very creative.

Ten years ago, direct marketing agencies were regularly producing mail campaigns that were both surprising and delightful.
Take the ‘Chocolate Letter’ that was sent out to persuade marketers of the power of the medium. It was written in chocolate on chocolate.
3,000 were mailed.
7,000 marketers claimed to have received it.

Today, direct agencies are mesmerised by all things digital and their clients too.
Besides, putting a clever idea in an envelope often means spending a bit of money, shock horror.
Now, here’s some Google data I used to refer to constantly when I was a Googler.
As much as 80% of the success of online advertising is down to creativity.
I’m not saying that targeting isn’t important.
But if you put rubbish in front of the people you want to reach, it is still rubbish.
In fact, it can be worse than rubbish. It can be poo, because they know what you’re doing and resent you for it.
I think the same rule applies to mail.

I can’t help but wonder how much more successful even successful mail campaigns could be with some added pizzazz.
For instance, rooting around in JICMAIL Discovery I came across a real insight in the Travel/Tourism category.
Households with three adults massively over-index on interest in holidays away.
Mum, Dad and a grown-up child who still can’t afford a place of his/her own.
Mum and Dad want to be as supportive as they can.
They can’t pay for property but maybe they can pay for ten days in the sun?
Until a month ago, my twenty-five-year-old daughter was still living at home.
If a mailing had landed, pitching the idea of a holiday for the three of us, my wife would most certainly have kept it, worked on me and then produced it when the time was right.
Then, if the mailing was witty and intelligent, there would be the double-whammy of relevance AND seduction.

Insight almost always leads to an idea.
But it’s impact, or creativity, that turns your ROI into a promotion and/or a decent Christmas bonus.

Here’s an example from New Zealand, where both clients and agencies still believe in the amazing power of mail.
In New Zealand (as in many parts of the world) interest rates had come down.
Data revealed that on average, homeowners in Auckland could eventually pay $156,000 more than they needed to on a $300,000 mortgage.
Now that’s a real insight.
Thousands of home-owners simply didn’t realise how much they were overpaying.
So, the idea was to tell ‘em.
Now, BNZ could have just sent a letter.
But they didn’t.
They went for impact.
They got the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to let them have real shredded bank notes.
Every mailpack contained $1,000 of sliced and diced cash.
Results? Home loan enquiries up 13%.
$600 million added to the bank’s loan book.
And, in terms of brand communication, preference scores for BNZ up 11%.

Closer to home and another brilliant example of insight, idea, impact, here’s Wunderman London for The Sun.
The newspaper wanted to sell papers by promoting its football game, The Dream Team.
The data revealed that even the most passionate of supporters chose players from rival teams when they were building their ultimate Dream Team.
That’s an insight.
Arsenal fans would pick Spurs players, Man U fans picked Liverpool stars.
And 92% of Crystal Palace supporters didn’t choose a single Crystal Palace player!
The idea was to let people know their guilty secret was out but that they were not alone in their treachery.
Impact came from mailing them what looked like their team scarf.
Why mail rather than any other medium?
Maybe because a savvy media planner (there are one or two!) had spotted that when men get DM about entertainment activities, they engage with the piece on average 4.97 times.
Well done that canny planner because, despite the Sun’s pay-wall, there were 630,000 registrations for the game and usage of the Sun Goals app increased by 678%.

JICMAIL is an astonishing new tool.
But it can do only so much.
It can throw up the insights that will lead to ideas.
But it is the impact of a magical creative idea that can make Cinders the belle of the ball.


Patrick Collister is editor of Directory Magazine and of The Caples Awards.

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