In this digital age, it would be easy to assume that the mail dies a long, slow death – that people are so glued to their screens that the ping of endless email notifications could permanently choke the mailbox. who slams.
For now at least, nothing could be further from the truth. A collection of recent studies reveals that mail retains a healthy place in the marketing mix. Among them was the discovery that Gen Z especially loves the novelty of receiving addressed mail, and that the humble mailpack is very effective when paired with mobile marketing campaigns.
So far so good: Rumors of Direct Mail’s demise are greatly exaggerated. But the truth is that the naysayers may be right. Unless innovation and inspiration come to the chain’s rescue, those fortunes could well be reversed.
Why new ideas are needed to save mail
Although it pains me to admit it, I clearly remember the heady days of four decades ago when direct mail burst onto the scene for a blitz of marketing budgets. The new kid on the block was the next big thing. Measurement was key.
Compared to the “see what sticks” approach of offline channels, including TV and outdoor advertising, mail effectiveness was much easier to pin down. The business reply envelope was the medium’s golden ticket.
Fast forward to the turn of the century, however, and questions have been asked about response rates and volume pricing. The mail cause has not been helped by the arrival of a new marketing idol. Email, and digital channels in general, have begun to dominate the scene as the seemingly most efficient and effective way to grab consumers’ attention.
And it’s been that way ever since. But I believe positive change is within reach. Mail can remain dynamic as a marketing channel. But this requires willpower and a different approach, especially when it comes to pricing.
Crop run down
As easy as it is to criticize the UK’s national postal operator, I can’t help but point the finger at Royal Mail. Of course, the company has a number of pressing issues on its plate right now, including the industrial action that began over the summer.
Traders, too, feel unhappy. There seems to be a mentality that the best way to turn the market around is to inflate costs. The problem with this approach is twofold. Many brands are moving elsewhere to channels that make more sense, while it all becomes a race to the bottom on price.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people at Royal Mail who do good things for our industry. Likewise, others are hindering progress, innovation and the sustainable future of mail as a marketing channel.
Go Inspire is on a mission to advance the cause of mail, making sure it appeals to the masses. It’s the traditional channel for older consumers, where they feel comfortable and confident that their interactions with the brand aren’t open to fraud. It also proves to be a winner with youngsters, as noted earlier.
In a way, the mail’s enduring appeal comes as no surprise. We all have inbox fatigue. We are bombarded with email messages from such brands that we go blind to most of them, throwing them away without bothering to read them.
And sometimes I sift through my junk folder and spot an offer that may have rattled my debit card in my pocket — if only I’d seen it at the right time.
Mail, on the other hand, has the power to stop us in our tracks. It can persuade us to buy something we didn’t know we wanted. Sometimes we keep a packet of mail for days or even weeks while we consider the offer. Mail is a market maker.
Time to deliver mail innovation
I believe we need a new postal manifest. One that encompasses all industry players: brands, agencies, suppliers, trade organizations – and Royal Mail.
Let’s discuss and design ways around the price-dominated agenda. Let’s agree that mail has a bright future, exploring the benefits of innovation that includes programmatic mail: targeted, hybrid mail-to-digital campaigns that allow us to see consumer activity in real time.
And let’s create products and value propositions that captivate the C-suite, persuading them that direct mail campaigns can truly create brand value. Only then will they act to protect its place in the marketing mix.
So don’t listen to the pessimists. The time of mail is not over, it can grow its share and have a bright future. The Last Post is still a long way off.
Patrick Headley is CEO of Go Inspire Group. Joining Go Inspire in 1993, he was at the forefront of the group’s transition to a £70 million business and marketing performance partner for some of the UK’s largest companies. . Leading an investment of over £20m in technology and people, as well as an MBO in 2016, Headley is results driven and determined in his belief in the business. Keen to share his vision, he has held positions on Royal Mail, DMA and other industry boards. Headley frequently speaks at industry events, educating clients and agencies on the benefits of targeted communications.