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The Value of Mail in Uncertain Times


Written by Kerry Davidson | Click here to view the original view.

“We live in uncertain times, where there is constant social, economic and political change, and consumer trust has been eroded by ‘fake news’ and an unprecedented volume of commercial messages. As marketing decision-makers, we need to address this issue as a matter of urgency. We need our marketing communications to deliver both trust and believability.”

This is the opening statement from a report published by Royal Mail MarketReach in August 2017.

It might just as easily be yesterday.

Consumers today are exposed to an ever increasing number of advertising messages. It’s getting harder for brands to cut through the noise and clutter and to reach the right audience at the right time. Mail has always had an important role to play in the marketing mix. More direct, one-to-one communications with customers – and their capacity to deliver more personal, customised messages – offer marketers a valuable opportunity to help brands build reassurance and add credibility to their message.

Direct mail has a unique set of qualities that can help marketers to build trust in their brands and as a media and marketing professionals you are probably seeking urgent solutions to the levels of uncertainty that we are experiencing. Naturally, building and maintaining brand trust is a challenge for every part of an organisation – not just the marketing department. Trust comes from every single touchpoint a consumer or prospect has with the brand. And the more trusted your communications are, the more engagement and traction you will gain.

Watch video of Amanda Griffiths, Head of Communications Planning, MarketReach talking about the unique qualities of Direct Mail.

The extra value of mail in an online world

In an increasingly digital world where the volume of email has continued to grow, email’s dominance is helping to shape the emotional value of mail. Quite simply, the more rare ‘physical’ mail becomes, the more highly it is valued. And the comparison between mail and email has always been of interest: after all, both are direct, one-to-one channels that can be personalised and are seen as powerful ways to build trust and value with the consumer. MarketReach first looked at the difference between mail and email back in 2007. And they have continued to ask the same set of questions from that first exercise right up to this latest programme of work. In a ten-year period, the percentage of people stating that mail ‘makes them feel valued and gives them a better impression of the company’ has risen to 70%.

“I actually enjoyed reading it. I sat down and I read all of it and I ended up sharing it with my mum as it gave the information better than I probably could” Anissa, Mid-20s

The characteristics of mail make it stand apart from ‘multi-screening behaviour’, where consumers are simultaneously paying attention to two or more digital or video devices at the same time. Mail conveys a sense of importance that ensures that consumers read and review. Reading an item of mail is an active process that demands the dedicated attention of the viewer.

“Whether I know a brand or not, if I get a letter either way I’m going to open it because I don’t know what’s inside. I’d never just throw an envelope away if there’s something in it.”Jamie, Mid-30s

If a communication is serious and important enough to engage the consumer’s full attention, it is well on its way to earning their trust. Mail stays in the home, giving people multiple opportunities to reread and engage with it more deeply. At a crucial, fundamental and human level, mail delivers important social and physiological truths. Quite simply, words printed on paper can build and maintain trustworthiness.

What does the future look like?​

Economic forecasters suggest that uncertainty is going to be with us for a very long time. So the world of marketing needs to adapt and evolve in order to survive. New online channels will emerge, traditional broadcast channels won’t disappear – and the number of marketing messages received by consumers will only continue to multiply.

In this landscape, ‘real world’ mail is growing in credibility and importance. The solid, tactile, printed nature of mail, the fact that customers can hold the communication in their hands, feel it, store it, share it, come back to it – gives mail a level of credibility that few other channels can even approach. If you want your customers to believe, value and respond in a profitable way to your communications, mail should be part of your marketing mix.

In response to demand from brands for greater direct mail skills, Royal Mail and the IDM combined to create the IDM Award in Direct Mail – the first-ever professional qualification in the UK focused solely on direct mail.

Download the IDM Qualifications and Training Catalogue

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