Royal Mail’s ambitions need a reality check

Royal Mail hopes by offering brands enhanced planning, creative and data solutions they will be reminded of the “power of physical”, an appreciation lost in the rush to embrace digital. Is the launch of Market Reach a new dawn for physical direct marketing? Or the last desperate throw of the dice for a channel in terminal decline?

Russell Parsons

The intention for Market Reach is not management of decline. Royal Mail is hoping that the full-service solution will inspire brands and agencies to either add DM to their channel mix or substitute it for another. The hoped for outcome is to increase physical DM’s share of the UK’s advertising market.

A lofty ambition. Even loftier when you consider the prevailing winds. Report after report from respected sources have indicated that spend on direct marketing is declining. Received wisdom has it that the sector is losing out to younger, nimbler and, in some cases, cheaper alternatives.

This should not read as an admission of defeat for DM. Nor should it be taken as an answer to the question posed at the start of this missive.

It has long been argued that the key stakeholders in the physical DM market need to get smarter. Efforts to enhance creativity, effective planning and relevance need to be steeped up, it is said.

Time will tell whether Market Reach proves itself on all counts but the good intentions to tick all of those boxes are there. More creative DM at a reasonable cost (Royal Mail’s charges are as yet undisclosed) can only bolster its appeal to brands and agencies. Aligning with digital, or as marketing director Antony Miller puts it “by providing a route to digital” is an already well worn path that should be encouraged.

The answer, therefore, to the questions posed up top falls somewhere between the two. If it is a new dawn, it is for Royal Mail and not DM – a refocusing of its efforts to concentrate on the areas of its business that are likely to provide returns ahead of privatisation. What it should be viewed as instead is a welcome addition that should, if handled correctly, provide brands with more reasons to use DM.

Grabbing a larger slice of the advertising market might be out of Royal Mail’s reach. Holding its ground by providing reason for it to be considered is a humbler but more achievable ambition.

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