Far from being archaic, unaddressed leafleting’s high response rates, strong stand-out factor and low costs have seen the channel gain a surge in interest.
Unaddressed mail is viewed by many in the marketing world as an archaic communication tool that lags behind the creativity and effectiveness of other, more modern channels, especially digital ones.
Consumer groups, too, have condemned brands that use the channel as irresponsible producers of junk mail that is, at best, glanced at before being consigned to the bin and, ultimately, landfill.
Despite such negative PR, though, use of the channel is on the rise – and not just among the usual supermarket and takeaway suspects using it as a tactical tool to promote short-term offers.
Nielsen data shows the top ten biggest unaddressed advertisers spent £38.8m last year, up from £27.2m in 2009. The 43% increase compares with the 7% uplift widely forecast for the entire advertising market in 2010. Virgin Media was the top spender, laying out £5.7m, £2m more than in 2009, while some of the biggest players in the financial, retail and utilities sectors made up the rest of the top ten.
The channel’s cheerleaders argue that better data modelling and geo-targeting tools have boosted marketers’ ability to plan and execute unaddressed campaigns to clearly defined target audiences.
Users argue that for those looking to drive local business, campaigns can be targeted at postcode level as a tool to engender a direct and immediate response in a cost-efficient manner. Crucial, it is said, in these straitened times.
Virgin Media direct marketing and CRM director Chris Bibby says door drops allow it to target prospective customers in the specific areas in which it is rolling out broadband services.
He adds: “Door drops can be an efficient way to communicate with consumers and a good cost per response rate is attractive.”
TalkTalk head of direct marketing Michele Lockwood says that for companies with a broad appeal, it offers an “economically efficient way to geo-demographically target products and messages”.
She adds: “They also offer a good way to address a household, rather than necessarily one of a number of individuals in a household who may not be the decision-maker or the main consumer of household products and services.”
British Marketing Survey data for the final quarter of 2010 bolsters the view that response rates from door drops justify the outlay. Leaflets through the door led to a near 7% response rate in the quarter – the highest of all media – with its nearest rival, TV, on 4.9%.
It is not just the response rates and low costs that brands like about door drops. Some also argue that leaflets – far from restricting creativity with a limited platform – provide stand-out in an increasingly fragmented media landscape. Research by Data Talk commissioned by Royal Mail found that 87% of consumers recalled leaflets posted through the door, compared with 69% for TV, 35% for email and 30% for online ads.
Cameron March, marketing director for Blacks Leisure Group, owners of the Millets and Blacks brands, says door drops offer the opportunity to showcase its range “in a powerful style delivered direct to their front door”.
He adds: “It allows us to present a multitude of messages in one format, manipulating the layout, colour and offers to ensure maximum exposure to potential consumers – in one eight-page flyer we can promote more than 75 offers. This also allows greater opportunity to promote brands, link sales, and range by pursuit, as there is time to dwell on the messages promoted.”
Royal Mail is keen to highlight the potential benefits cited by firms such as Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Blacks because it represents a significant revenue opportunity. With postal unions having agreed an expansion of the number of door-drop items that can be carried weekly, it owns a successful medium with real growth potential.
Royal Mail launched a service called Door Drops Online last November to help brands create and book unaddressed campaigns. This service now includes post-campaign analysis through its Door to Door Response service, which claims to sort, evaluate and interrogate the results of specific campaigns and benchmark against previous activity.
In launching these services, Royal Mail is not only trying to boost the appeal of a service it earns money from, it also wants the channel to continue to offer companies a targeted and accountable option.
This in the face of increasing competition from trendy and, arguably, even more targeted mobile marketing methods. Targeting is also a way to counter consumer challenges about the environmental impact of unsolicited items.
At present, however, it appears that for many brands, unaddressed mail still has much to offer. Aviva sales and marketing manager Neil Batchelor concludes: “Door-to-door offers an effective route to market, with the ability to target large areas of potential customers where conversion and customer volumes are strong.”