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Business Opportunities

Direct Mail

To reach audiences you cannot deny the importance of being online. However, Jo Golding finds out that direct mail and door drops are a key part of the package

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Whether using direct mail or door drops, case studies and surveys are revealing that people like to receive print

Gold in the Post

Direct mail—that is, mail delivered straight through people’s letterboxes in their homes or their desks at work—is sometimes discussed as an ancient medium that has been knocked off its pedestal by e-mail. However, as so many of us in the print industry know, nothing could be further from the truth—direct mail seems to be growing at a rapid rate and having somewhat of a renaissance.

How do we know this? Well, there are lots of case studies that show the effectiveness of real life direct mail campaigns, with proven results of reaching and influencing audiences. Before I get onto that, Adam Carnell, managing director of Route One Print tells me exactly why direct mail is here to stay.

“Direct mail can be a very effective form of marketing,” Carnell says, “In past years, there’s been a lot of talk in the industry that suggests direct mail could be dying out, but we don’t consider that to be the case at Route One Print.

“Royal Mail found that 92 percent of people who received direct mail were driven online as a result. That’s an outstanding response rate and not one that you’re likely to get through digital methods.

“There are some other great benefits to direct mail, such as the fact that recipients of direct mail are able to recall the brand 75 percent of the time compared to only 44 percent of the time when receiving digital marketing (kissmetrics.com). These figures make it pretty hard to deny the power of direct mail.”

Carnell also makes the very relevant point that we may be about to see a change in the way companies market themselves when GDPR kicks in at the end of the month.

“It’s true, though, that digital marketing is easier to coordinate and that’s probably why so many companies are choosing to go down that route instead. However, that could all be about to change with the introduction of GDPR. As the legislation around digital marketing gets tougher, we’re predicting a big shift as businesses turn to direct mail to contact their customers.”

As the legislation around digital marketing gets tougher, we’re predicting a big shift as businesses turn to direct mail to contact their customers


For Route One Print’s latest direct mail campaign, the company created a spot the difference test to highlight the advances that have been made in inkjet technology.

Carnell explains: “Having recently invested in a Fujifilm Jet Press 720S for all of our business card production, we wanted to prove a point to clients who hold litho as the pinnacle of print quality. We wanted to reassure them that their business cards were going to come out looking as good, if not better, as they had before.”

Route One Print used its Fujifilm Jet Press 720S to produce business cards as part of a direct mail campaign. Pictured: the company’s managing director, Adam Carnell


Therefore, Route One Print sent out two business cards, one printed on the Jet Press and one on a litho press. Exactly 75 percent of its clients said the Jet Press card was better quality than the litho card, proving the company’s point. However, it was the effectiveness of direct mail that enabled the company to get this all-important feedback.

Preference for print

Print Power is another company that is doing all it can to promote the value of print advertising in the media mix. Jonathan Tame, UK country manager of Print Power and Two Sides UK, says it is worth remembering that consumers like receiving information in print.

Giving evidence to this viewpoint is an international study commissioned by Two Sides of over 10,700 consumers, carried out by research company Toluna last year. The survey analysed consumer preferences, attitudes, and trust for print and paper.

The survey took in the views of 1,070 UK consumers, and the report states: “For bills and statements, the survey found that UK consumers prefer to read these on their computers (laptops and desktops). Printed statements were preferred by 29 percent of respondents and 56 percent say they prefer to receive bills and financial statements through a combination of both online and on paper.”

The survey also found print was the preferred choice for recreational reading in the UK: magazines (78 percent), books (73 percent) and news (62 percent).

Another important issue is security and the report states: “71 percent of UK consumers are increasingly concerned that their personal information held electronically is at risk of being hacked, stolen, lost or damaged and 69 percent keep hard copies of important documents filed at home, as they believe this is the safest and most secure way of storing their information.”

Focusing in on direct mail’s popularity, the international survey found 45 percent of the full group of respondents, from ten different countries, said they like receiving personally-addressed advertising mail and printed leaflets delivered to their home, with 46 percent paying attention to them.

The report also states: “The tendency to consume information from printed leaflets, unaddressed mail as well as direct advertising mail is higher (56 percent) than marketing e-mails (49 percent). The results indicate 46 percent would be more likely to take an action after seeing an advertisement in a printed newspaper or magazine than they would if they saw the same ad online.” This tells me that many people really do respond to print marketing and advertising messaging, therefore, this should not a medium that is ignored.

Print Power has a wealth of case studies on its website that you can browse, including one about Mercedes-Benz. Advertising agency BBDO was given the task to bridge the gap between offline and online for the car brand. A hologram of their new GLC was created and 14,913 people received a direct mail piece which contained a die-cut Perspex, which they were able to assemble themselves into a pyramid shape.

By visiting a custom-built microsite, recipients then placed the pyramid on their phone or iPad, which projected a 3D holographic image of the vehicle and a film about the car’s concept. They recorded 17,904 views of the hologram film and this contributed to over $35m (£25m) in GLC sales. All thanks to a direct piece of mail.

Drop me a line

Having found out just under half of the respondents of Two Sides’ survey liked receiving personally-addressed advertising, it is also interesting to look at unaddressed mail or ‘door drops’. Mark Davies, managing director of Whistl (Doordrop Media), spoke to me about his views on the medium.

Mark Davies from Whistl (Doordrop Media) says advertisers are recognising that door drops offer “scalable, cost-effective new customer acquisition”


He says: “Doordrop Media is a hard-working, cost-effective, performance-driven marketing channel that has been eclipsed in recent years in the glare of digital innovation. However, in light of the growing concerns about digital performance, consumer disengagement, high digital media clutter, and most topically a lack of data transparency, door drops are coming into vogue once again.

“Doordrop Media is a fairly unique channel in that it can rightly claim to be both targeted and broadcast. It delivers all of the benefits of physical, tangible print—retention, engagement, commercial action—delivered at a low cost per thousand and provides serendipitous moments of inspiration for consumers in the comfort of their homes. Importantly it connects brands to consumers in ways that online search cannot—for how could you search for something you didn’t know you wanted until you saw it in a print catalogue, for example?”

Davies similarly notes the change soon to happen with GDPR, saying: “Changes in data regulations that come into force next month are only going to serve to further highlight some of its unique attributes—namely that it is the only channel that can be locally targeted without the requirement for personally identifiable information. In short, we are targeting households not people and as such door drops are GDPR-compliant by design. In view of the complexity involved in this legislation and the challenges companies are facing in achieving compliance, door drops are proving to be attractive safe ground—a measurable acquisition channel that can be utilised without risk.

“It is for this reason that we are starting to see a pendulum swing back in our favour—new brands including pureplay digital brands who have never used the channel before and also lapsed users returning after several years. And those returning customers are finding that the channel has raised its game, proliferated the anonymised data sets we use in our targeting, and honed our attribution to demonstrate both offline and online impacts driven by the door drop.”

The Salvation Army see a return of £2.12 for every £1 spent on door drops


Davies says clients across retail, e-commerce, FMCG, charity, telecoms, government, utilities, and finance are all using door drops. He highlights Music Magpie as a pureplay digital brand that has used leaflets to drive traffic to its website, seeing a 69 percent uplift in sales where their digital marketing was integrated with door drops.

“Bill’s Restaurants trialled door drop for the first time at the end of last year and saw an 11.4 percent uplift in sales versus control areas,” Davies reveals, adding: “The Salvation Army see a return of £2.12 for every £1 spent on door drops and Fred Olsen have seen sales increase by over 200 percent in areas they have used door drop to promote their cruise holidays.

(Above & below) Bill’s Restaurants trialled door drops for the first time last year and saw an 11.4 percent uplift in sales versus control areas








“Above all, these advertisers and many others are recognising that door drops offer scalable, cost-effective new customer acquisition. In several case studies, door drops is not the most effective acquisition channel in the mix but is the one that is capable of providing reach—49 percent of all customers recruited in one recent campaign. Many of our success stories are available via the Print Power website and also on idoordrop.com.”

New audiences

Davies turns to the benefits for printers and believes door drops offer a significant opportunity to keep those presses busy. He concludes: “With campaign volumes often running into the millions and increasing opportunities to add value by matching creative executions to prevailing audiences in the targeted areas, some of the technological advancements in the print industry are finding a new audience in the clients discovering or rediscovering this channel. In fact, the response is often one of surprise as to what the art of the possible in print delivered via door drop is nowadays. ‘I didn’t know door drops could do that’ is a reaction I always try to elicit from clients when I am talking to them about the channel.”

O Factoid: 74 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds in the UK believe they spend too much time on electronic devices. 58 percent are concerned this could be damaging to their health (Print and Paper in a Digital World, Two Sides, 2017). O


Looking into direct mail and door drops has been very interesting, as in a world where digital communication is supposedly top dog, so many of us prefer, for example, to file important documents as hard copies. Have a quick think about your own habits. Do you print out your boarding pass or flash your phone at the airport?

Even as a Millennial, I tend to feel safer with a printed copy. It seems to me that for social matters, online is great.

However, when the importance is great, there really is no substitute for print. It has that trustworthy feel, which makes me think direct mail will continue to be a very effective medium for catching people’s attention.


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