Royal Mail’s DM business faces enough challenges without denying it data assets

The moment the countdown began on the sale of the Royal Mail, the parts of the business that could sustain and grow revenue assumed even greater importance.

Russell Parsons

Data, campaign planning and direct marketing services ranked highly in the pecking order then and now the firm has been privatised.

Despite the direction of travel being against DM, it still represents a significant and growing, in terms of its share of revenue generated, part of Royal Mail’s business. It has the potential to be even more potent when allied with the wealth of data the company has available to it.

I offer this 101 guide to the Royal Mail’s business strategy in the wake of the Public Accounts Committee’s report into the sale of the mail operator. The Committee found fault in the Government’s decision to sell the Postcode Address File (PAF) – a huge database of postcodes and addresses – as part of the sell-off.

The group of MPs argued that the PAF should be open data publically available for the good of the nation and not to be sold to businesses to be used in direct mail campaigns.

Although I have some sympathy with the open data argument, especially in the current environment where concern over data use and security is running high, the PAF was absolutely central to the future success of the Royal Mail and needed to be included in its sale.0

Its value to Royal Mail and investors is significant. Deloitte put the value of public sector information to consumers, businesses and the public at about £1.8bn in 2012.

Royal Mail and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills have made noises about offering wider access, which seems about right.

However, if Royal Mail is to succeed and flourish as a media owner, it is with data such as this that was previously publically owned.

Last week, Royal Mail announced three senior hires to Market Reach which acts as a one-stop creative, data and media service for brands.  Market Reach launched in 2012 with a brief to boost physical direct marketing’s share of the UK advertising market by persuading brands of the merits of advertising mail.

A lofty and arguably unrealistic objective and one that would be altogether more difficult without data assets such as the PAF.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here