DDM: a major case for print media

DDM-2015-09-24_0117The first Doordrop Media Conference in Amsterdam put letterbox marketing firmly back on the map as a key sector with a great deal of real potential. After all, just about everyone reads mailshots – but a bit more innovation and creativity wouldn’t go amiss.

A zoomed-in Google Maps view of a street in Copenhagen. Morten Hovmand Buch can tell you exactly which households have a preference for dry white wine, salmon and French cheese. A leaflet advertising a crate of beer plus frozen fish fingers won’t do much for this particular family, he knows. And so they receive a different type of promotion in their letterbox.The Dane works at Coop, a chain comprising a variety of retail brands, which leverages a clever system tailoring mailshots based on customer data. He collects the data from the organisation’s loyalty cards and his supplier has come up with the distribution model. All mailshots have addresses printed on them inconspicuously but don’t come with any names. These packages with discreetly inkjet-printed addresses make their way into letterboxes not carrying stickers telling them they’re not welcome – but gone is the scattergun approach.And the system works like a dream: intelligent use of customer data allows Coop to switch between three options: fewer mailshots/same sales, same number of mailshots/growing sales or more mailshots/more sales. Options 1 and 2 have proven the most attractive to date. As Hovmand Buch explained: “We divided up Denmark into two parts and tested the options – and found that sales remained the same while we made savings of 20 per cent. Well, that’s a no-brainer.”

Opening shot

The first international conference at the Amsterdam Undercurrent venue attracted 120 delegates from 21 countries. As at any other conference about door-to-door distribution, presentations were chock-a-block with charts and statistics – retailers spend a lot on mailshots and they want to know what their money is buying them.Paper mailshots remain a resounding success and the international numbers corroborate this long-known fact. That said, the purpose of letterbox marketing has changed: people go online after reading print media to find out more about a potential purchase. Paper is the opening shot, websites score the goals.

Too few households

Mailshot printers and distributors in the Netherlands have nothing to complain about: Mark Davies, CEO of the European Letterbox Marketing Association (ELMA), reported that the number of leaflet drops and mailshots in the Netherlands are about twice as high as the available letterboxes, which is exactly the opposite in, say, Eastern Europe. If the Dutch feel more mailshots should get distributed, they’re really saying they need more households.
Printers and distributors looking to persuade their customers of the value of paper can tap into a deluge of evidence. It wasn’t only Mark Davies – Mike Colling, CEO of the UK’s direct response media agency MC&C and Caroline Villecroze of France’s Adrexo came up with bar chart after bar chart proving the ROI of print media. Colling had even gone as far as putting cameras in place to study his subjects’ reading behaviour. He discovered that even those who claimed not to read mailshots at all were captured on camera reading for lengthy periods. Coverage was a full 100 per cent.
Printed marketing is relatively expensive but also produces higher returns per consumer and has proved the perfect start to a multichannel campaign. Consumers spend a substantial amount of time on printed promotions and retain the message much longer than what they hear through TV ads or the internet. And yes, youngsters also read mailshots.

Searching for examples

It’s precisely the young, though, that require a fresh approach. Many countries report a lack of creativity and willingness to innovate and target with precision. Hovmand Buchs’s Coop is the exception that proves the rule: retailers typically have access to masses of relevant data easy to mine for just the information they need, but this is hardly done in the real world. Caroline Villecroze was frustrated to find her customers displaying an obvious reluctance to innovate. The French love mailshots, so why change a thing, is what the average French retailer/printer/distributor will tell you.
Of course, by then the conference had heard one answer – cost savings and higher revenues, from Hovmand Buch – but there’s more to it. The world is moving fast and consumers love creative promotions. And they’re getting plenty of them online and on TV. The average mailshot, by contrast, still has the same look and feel it did over a decade ago, and younger consumers – rightly – classify them as boring. Martyn Eustace, the Managing Director of Print Power, a pan-European organisation dedicated to promoting print media, is always on the lookout for high-profile examples but is rarely offered one, probably because marketers think printed products aren’t sexy.
It’s a complaint we’ve been hearing for years and it prompted self-professed ‘brain agent’ René Boenders, the author of Great to Cool and Cool is Hot, to make the case for enthusiasm and creativity. He screened a number of funny video ads that people had obviously had fun making. Perhaps more tellingly, his presentation did not showcase a single print media example, even if he did say they are to be found.

Scanning waiters

“Maybe we’ve been too quick to dismiss the QR code as ugly and cumbersome. When I was in Asia recently, I saw people using their smartphones to scan everything all day long,” noted Holland at Home’s Patrick van der Borden in the panel afterwards. Even waiters were sporting QR codes, he recalled, encouraging customers to provide immediate feedback on their service.
It was how Europe went about adopting QR codes that killed it, of course. No-one wants to scan a code only to end up on a website’s homepage, Mark Davies argued. “QR offered great opportunities but the creativity to leverage them was missing. Just think, QR codes could have been used to provide all kinds of information about products. We just didn’t do enough of this.”
The audience were encouraged to vote about statements (see opening picture) and there was time for debate. However, audience and panel agreed that it should be manufacturers that come up with fresh ideas, not retailers, so there was not much in the way of heated discussion about which strategies to adopt.


Over drinks afterwards, we heard mixed feelings. One delegate who works at a leading retailer told me they had enough customer data to apply the Danish Coop model. However, neither printers, distributors nor intermediaries were offering to mine this data and investigate the possibilities of segmentation. “I don’t think our printer knows how to do it. And so we’re not using the data at all.” A strange chicken-and-egg conundrum: suppliers aren’t offering solutions that customers aren’t asking for, and customers don’t embark on an exercise they can’t find suppliers for.Print media gets people online. And the letterbox market is a lucrative one, albeit that suppliers compete with each other on price. We see great potential for companies willing to innovate, but they’ll have to invest and put time, effort and money into creativity, innovation and segmentation. Other channels, which stage high-profile innovations literally daily, are attracting a big share of those funds – even if these bring in lower returns per consumer than print media.

Unknown Alex Kunst, Printmedianieuws.nl

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