The option of directing spend towards traditional media is rising back up the agenda of marketers. Data suggests advertising in these channels retains high levels of consumer trust, which seems increasingly attractive to marketers in a world of fake news and intrusive online ads, not to mention frequent malware and cyber attacks.
For example, a recent survey from the CMO Council revealed that almost two-thirds (63%) of consumers would respond more positively to a social media ad if it appeared on a more traditional advertising channel. So how are brands responding to consumers’ faltering confidence in the deluge of digital media?
Max Langford, commercial director at SES Business Water, a water supply company serving more than 285,000 homes and businesses in the South East of England, believes there is a trust issue. “I know of cases where astute consumers have been duped by digital advertising and have unfortunately found that it’s not always what it seems,” he says. “Something that arrives through the post that you can touch and feel can seem more believable.”
It is a view supported by Royal Mail MarketReach’s research in May, which revealed that while 87% of people consider printed mail believable, only 48% say the same for email. It is a distrust fed, in part, by email saturation.
Co-op director of brand Helen Carroll says the group consults its members on its use of digital and traditional media, an approach that reflects changing times. “This consultation with our members has quite rightly impacted on our advertising strategy.”
She says the group’s media mix varies dramatically across its different businesses depending on route to market, target audience and objectives, but that traditional media have a key role to play.
“We are a brand with an emotive and deep story to tell and therefore trying to tell this entirely through the digital space would be difficult, due to the short dwell times we experience and the mindset that people are often in when they are receiving this content,” explains Carroll.
The Co-op uses cinema to communicate longer stories, such as its local community causes, as well as using outdoor to reach communities. Carroll says that “this can help to influence consumers who are passing by our Co-op Food stores and Funeral homes”.
Software company Workfront has countered the white noise of digital by continuing to run direct mail (DM) campaigns, both for lead generation and thought leadership. A recent DM campaign followed a competitor’s announcement that it would no longer be supporting one of its products.
Trying to tell our brand story entirely through digital would be difficult, due to the short dwell times.
Helen Carroll, The Co-operative Group
“We had 500 key targets that we wanted to have conversations with, so we ran a campaign we called ‘Perfect Marketing Match’,” says Workfront EMEA marketing director Jada Balster. “We started off by sending a large bouquet of flowers to their office, and on the card that came with the flowers was a vanity URL and nothing else. We felt that the intrigue and mystery was key to getting our prospects to take the next step and visit the website.”
While DM formed the centrepiece of the campaign (followed by a second piece of Valentine’s Day-themed DM a week later), prospects were driven online, with the tailored landing page enabling Workfront to monitor exactly how many recipients visited the URL. The DM campaign saw 71% of targets visit their personal landing page, while 9% of those took further action, such as downloading an asset or requesting information. Conversely, the email part of the campaign drove just 0.9% of recipients to the website.
As Balster says: “Often marketers are put off by the cost of DM, but as long as you stay highly targeted and consider your message and the feeling you want it to bring out in the person you are targeting, the ROI can be much higher.”
A DM campaign such as Workfront’s is also likely to make an emotional impact – Royal Mail MarketReach’s research reports 70% of respondents saying that mail makes them feel ‘more valued’.
SES Business Water chose DM in order to stand out from the crowd. In early 2017, the company worked with The Marketing Pod to create a DM campaign targeted at existing customers, with the aim of cross-selling another water service. It achieved a response rate of 26%, while ROI was measured by looking at the payback term, based on the number and value of customers converted.
Every element was personalised to the customer, from the information about their water account to the cross-sell incentive offered, while the copy avoided jargon. “Today, when people are overwhelmed with digital messages, traditional direct mail can provide real cut-through,” says SES’s Langford. His belief is supported by Royal Mail MarketReach’s figures, which show that 65% of customers say they are likely to give mail their full attention, compared with 35% for email.
For Co-op, channels such as direct mail and print advertising continue to play an important part in the marketing mix. It recently ran a cover wrap in the Metro newspaper announcing the group’s £9m donation to local communities. Carroll says it was the perfect media choice for a big announcement.
“The visibility of this medium across the commuter population, who can be passing a Co-op to and from their way to work, makes it a great choice for us as a food business that has more than 2,500 stores across the UK. However, the real win for us is combining the reach of newspapers like the Metro with the localised relevance of regional press titles,” she says.
“Having the right balance between our regional and national content was more of a consideration in this case than the split between digital and traditional media. Our results in terms of both econometrics and brand engagement showed that we got this balance right.”
With growing unease around digital marketing, it seems the ideal solution is a fusion of old and new. As SES’s Langford says, “combining digital marketing with print can make the former more trustworthy”.