Will the “DM sale” jump start the channel?

Christmas is not only the season to be jolly; it is a time where goodwill to all men is encouraged and the Royal Mail has assumed the role of Santa Claus in offering direct marketers an early Christmas present: a 20% discount on new and additional mailings sent next March and April.

Russell Parsons

The postal service claims the initiative is aimed at increasing use of the channel and will offer those advertisers and agencies “under pressure to deliver more for less” an incentive to trial or up their use of DM.

What it is not, the Royal Mail insists, is any attempt to win back or lock down wavering customers in the wake of the debilitating postal strikes.

Despite public protestations to the contrary, it is impossible as an observer not to join the dots between autumn’s industrial action and the self-proclaimed “DM sale”.

The strikes caused severe disruption to companies’ direct mail campaigns as well as tainting the Royal Mail brand and, crucially, leaving direct mail looking like an unreliable channel in the eyes of some

Sales, as any bargain hunter will attest to, can be a persuasive tool in generating trial or encouraging a second-look but they can also, as one agency executive pointed out to me this week, suggest a product or service that is reaching the end of its shelf life.

I am not about to forecast the end of the line for DM, but it is clear that the channel, already suffering from a wider 10% drop in mail volumes before the strikes, needs a jump-start.

However, as Robert Keitch, chief of membership and brand at the Direct Marketing Association, pointed out, the resuscitation should not end with the sale but be “part of a programme to get people feeling positive about mail again”.

It is also worth stating that the sale, which will be applicable to DM sent in March and April, could also be derailed by industrial action in the spring if the festive truce brokered in October does not become a lasting peace.

One more reason to ensure that Royal Mail chiefs and Union bosses maintain cordial relations in the new year.

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