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Market Summary - Direct Mail Marketing

Media Update:

Direct Mail Marketing


QTR 2 2014


Direct Mail Marketing from Marketreach

At a Glance

What is direct mail marketing?

If you’re an advertiser and you want to communicate on a one-to-one basis with your audience, direct mail marketing is the answer. It’s personalised, it’s targeted, and it’s effective.

Why should you use direct mail?

Direct mail marketing is a form of personalised and targeted direct marketing that advertisers use to communicate on a one-to-one basis with their audience.

patrick collister'When three people get together to start an advertising agency, what’s the first thing they do? Write letters. Lots of them. To all their old clients and to many potential new ones. They use mail because it’s personal, it’s persuasive and it works.’

Patrick Collister, editor Directory

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The most innovative marketers are digging deep in their databases to generate highly personalised mail. With digital print it’s possible to create infinite variations of the same mailshot at little cost. A brilliant example of this was a campaign by India’s Union Bank which got a 65% response rate. The bank used the data of customers who’d moved house frequently to create mailshots which appeared to have been redirected from one house to the next, all the way to the recipient’s current home. Inside the original envelope was a message saying, 'don’t you think it’s time you had a home of your own?'

In a digital age, direct mail is still the best way to deliver your brand into your customers’ hands. Customers still like to relax on the sofa with a catalogue or brochure while they decide what to buy, particularly when it comes to big ticket items like holidays or household goods. Use digital watermarks and QR codes to create an interactive experience for customers, directing them online to a product page or to digital content such as a video or blog post. Citroën, for example, recently used a digital watermark on a mailshot so the recipient could access details of their local dealership.

To sell some products, you really need to let your customers touch, smell, hear or taste them. Traditionally, that might have involved a door drop sampling campaign, but now you can integrate mail with an online campaign. Tabasco and L’Oreal are just two examples of brands which have acquired new customers by using social media and display ads to offer them the chance to receive a sample by post.

How does it work?

Direct mail is a powerful stand-alone medium, but it works equally well as part of an integrated campaign. Use it to promote new products, get new customers or retain existing ones. Send catalogues, letters, postcards, leaflets, vouchers or samples. The only limits are your budget and your imagination.

When First Direct wanted to offer customers a £50 iTunes voucher for recommending their services to a friend, they didn’t send an email which could be deleted at the click of a mouse. Instead they created a mailshot in the form of a game of pass the parcel – an unforgettable piece of mail which neatly conveying the idea of passing on a recommendation.

Mail doesn’t have to be this elaborate to be effective. For just 60p per pack, the Early Learning Centre (ELC) created highly-personalised birthday storybooks for members of its million-strong Big Birthday Club. These were sent out shortly before the child’s birthday and integrated with the retailer’s website, boosting sales by 8%. It’s been a wise investment for the retailer - for every £1 spent, it recouped £13.

Mail doesn’t just help you reach a mass audience - it’s also a great way to get the attention of powerful influencers among your target audience. Get your brand talked about by bloggers, journalists and social networkers by sending them something interesting, relevant and surprising through the post.

When Waitrose launched its weekly recipes, it sent the most vocal members of its online community a hamper with the ingredients for the first recipe - a rhubarb and ginger brulée. Half of them talked about it on the forum and Waitrose sold 14 weeks’ worth of rhubarb in four days.

With the right data and digital print technology, you can send highly targeted, personalized mail to different groups of customers. Land Rover, for example, persuaded more than 1,000 farmers to take a test drive by sending a mailpack, designed to look as tough as the vehicle it was promoting, to members of the National Farmers’ Union.

Don’t forget that your transactional mail can be a marketing tool, too. Use your bills and statements to flag up special offers, share company news and tell customers about related products and services.

A cost-effective way to reach a new audience can be to strike a deal with like-minded brands to cross-promote each other’s services. WaterAid has created an insert which goes out with water bills in England and Wales, while LOVEFiLM and Ocado regularly include inserts with Amazon parcels. LOVEFiLM recently partnered with the RSPCA and used direct mail to promote a deal whereby the charity would receive a £20 donation if the recipient signed up to a free 30-day LOVEFiLM trial.

Key features and benefits

It’s easy to forget that direct mail offers your audience a tactile, sensory experience – they can feel it, play with it, even smell or taste it. It’s portable – you can take it with you to read on the train, in the garden. Coupons can be detached and slipped in a purse or wallet.

Mail also has longevity. People will keep a well-designed catalogue on their coffee table and a useful mailshot will be filed away for future reference. Just think: you could send something through the post that someone could keep for 20 years – advertising your brand all the while.

Direct mail sends out a message about your company – recipients respond that they get a better, more professional and more personal impression of the sender when they receive a piece of direct mail. Plus, they say they’re more likely to act on it (source: Quadrangle DM and Email).

Finally, direct mail doesn’t have to compete with other content, like in a magazine, TV channel or online site. There are 530 UK TV stations, 821 UK radio stations and 234 million websites worldwide… but only one letterbox.

Key audience strengths

The beauty of direct mail is that it enables you to target your audience with pinpoint accuracy – by postcode, demographics, interest, or based on their buying habits. If you’ve a customer database that contains some of this information, you’re sitting on a direct mail goldmine.

What’s more, its accuracy is improving all the time – meaning ROI from direct mail has more than doubled in recent years, thanks to better targeting and increasingly easier personalisation.

Analysis of average ROIs achieved by direct mail component of campaigns 2006-2009 (source: OMD Brand Science)

And more people are taking notice of it – while 91% people opening direct mail that they receive (source: Ebiquity), email acquisition open rates have fallen to just 11% - a drop of 50% since 2007 (source: DMA).

Finally, direct mail lends extra oomph as part of an integrated campaign, especially when using social media. For example, every quarter Tesco sends out a mailing to its 10 million-strong Clubcard database, resulting in a 50 – 100% increase in searches for ‘Tesco Clubcard’ online (source: BMRB)

This report from Brandscience demonstrates how overall media effectiveness improves when you add direct mail to TV, outdoor, online and press


About MarketReach

MarketReach has been created to show people how mail can address and solve their business problems through the use of mail… to help those already using mail to use it more…and to encourage businesses and their agencies to bring mail into their marketing mix.


Many organisations, both clients and agencies, no longer have in-house all of the skills and competencies required to create excellent mail campaigns. MarketReach enables them to fill these gaps quickly wherever they occur across the value chain, enabling them to plan, create, produce, distribute and measure mail. MarketReach aims to highlight some core principles that are not just disciplines of excellent mail, but excellent marketing:


•          The attention to copy and design that really connects with your customers,

•          Excellent production that creates incredible impact whilst still working on tight budgets

•          Focus on data that cuts out waste and allows a higher level of personalisation and targeting.


Where Royal Mail did not have these skills already, MarketReach has partnered with the best in the industry to deliver them. For example, Mark Earls has worked with us to create our “Diode” planning tool, the first ever planning tool that aims to seamlessly integrate mail into a campaign.  We have also brought in the likes of Clinic and Amstore to provide creative, Call Credit, Experian and EHS 4D in data, St. Ives to make sure every mail piece is produced to the highest standard, Fortune Favours the Brave, Incentivated and Digital Space to add a broad range of innovative response, activation and measurement tools. Adding these partners to Royal Mail’s existing data (e.g. Home movers) and distribution ( e.g. Advertising Mail, Door to Door, both with sustainable options) MarketReach offers products and services that fulfil any customer need, large or small.


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