For Lis Blair, chief marketing officer at MoneySuperMarket, direct mail is a critical way in which marketers can reconnect with the value of highly targeted and impactful campaigns in the digital age.
Speaking with Rory Sutherland, vice-chairman of Ogilvy, for the first of a new series of interviews put together by Marketreach as part of its Mail Unleashed campaign, she shared how too often the discipline required by comparatively more expensive direct mail campaigns has been lost, with many digital campaigns opting for a “scattergun” approach instead.
“It’s about having to be ruthlessly efficient with your spend and your targeting to get the right message to the right customer at the right time,” she said. “That direct mail way of thinking has been super important in the applications I’ve made to digital marketing as well. I think some of those disciplines have been lost as things have become cheaper to send.”
Behaviour change, satisfaction and engagement
In particular, the MoneySuperMarket CMO, who has previously worked with companies that include EasyJet, Audi and Barclays, recalled how the physicality and tactility of direct mail allowed EasyJet to enrich its one-to-one relationship with high-value customers when it launched its Flight Club. In fact, the launch of the loyalty scheme marked the first occasion the airline had deviated from email-based marketing, with a targeted direct mail campaign that mapped out the perks of membership, offering high frequency fliers’ access to perks such as free flight changes.
“It was genuinely different for the business,” she said. “We’d identified a cohort of customers that were highly valuable to us and who we wanted to put our virtual arms around and do our best to engender and retain loyalty. To invite them we wanted to do something impactful, personalised and beautiful that was going to make them sit up and realise they were special.”
It’s about having to be ruthlessly efficient with your spend and your targeting to get the right message to the right customer at the right time.
Lis Blair, MoneySuperMarket
The team designed a direct mail pack, laser-cut with a black envelope and orange cut-out. “It was the sweet spot between quality, impact and not being so expensive I couldn’t get it signed off,” she told Sutherland.
The campaign had the desired effect – and some surprising ones too. Not only did it trigger all the behavioural changes EasyJet had hoped for, such as boosting satisfaction and engagement across these high-value customers, but it also increased their frequency of travel with the airline.
“It deepened into customer’s wallets in ways which we hadn’t expected. These were often weekly travellers, commuting from Edinburgh to Luton say, but we saw them start to book other things too that they hadn’t before.”
Effectiveness and impact
She says this is just one example of the way in which “clever, provocative and thoughtful” direct mail campaigns can provide a uniquely valuable way to build relationships with the right audience.
A 2020 campaign by The Miscarriage Association, working with MRM UK, was another she highlighted in her interview with Sutherland. The charity created acknowledgement cards, containing messages of support written by women who had experienced a miscarriage, and shared with friends and family who may otherwise struggle to find the right words.
“For me it was a really brave way of tackling something that people didn’t talk about and a beautiful way of allowing people to reach out,” she said.
As Sutherland pointed out, both examples highlight the effectiveness of highly impactful direct mail campaigns in an era in which the perception of digital as ‘free’ has eroded some of that discipline. Not only is “making things [digital] assumed to be good for sustainability” when in reality “data centres don’t run on air”, but “the problem with digital is that because it’s more or less perceived as free, there isn’t much incentive to target or discriminate”. This at a time when what is really needed from communications “is less but better”.
For Lis Blair, the aim is to avoid this “scattergun” approach.” Instead “the important bit for me will be balancing where we can get stronger impact, differentiation and standout from competitors by using tools like direct marketing as a balance in our overall mix,” she explains
Data centres don’t run on air.
Rory Sutherland, Ogilvy
The interview is available to watch online in full now, the first in a collection of exclusive chats with leading CMOs and senior marketers to be broadcast for Marketreach’s Mail Unleashed campaign. Next up in the series in the coming weeks will also be Tony Miller, former CMO of Weightwatchers and Pete Markey, CMO of Boots, each of whom will sit down in conversation with Rory Sutherland to share their own insights on how direct mail has shaped and informed the way in which they approach their own strategies.
By listening to the insights and experiences of these leading marketing advocates, marketers will see first-hand the impact of direct mail in a digital era. With tips both on the way in which they can incorporate this channel into their own marketing mix to create highly effective, standout campaigns, and also the powerful potential of collaborations between direct mail and digital.