A word from the wise

In the interest of making a year of cataloguing my door mat more than just photos of leaflets, I wanted to get the inside track on why we receive mail based marketing. I spoke to Ben Cunningham, Head of Direct at Carat UK, for a few insights into how door drops work.

You can follow the complete project at oneyearofjunkmail.tumblr.com

Why do you think we get so much marketing material pushed through our doors?

Door drops (eg non addressed leaflets that go through the letterbox) are an effective media channel due to a number of factors.  They are better are targeting regionally than many other media channels because you can target only the postal sectors that have a high penetration of your target audience segments rather than relying on the delivered audience of radio or regional press. Retailers use door drops because it offers the least wastage when looking at particular audiences within certain drive-times of stores which is also cost effective when using local free newspapers for distribution (circa £10 per ‘000 which is lower than other channels).  The second big factor is the creative potential.  You can practically door drop anything, so supermarkets like to drop booklets of all their offers which they couldn’t do cost effectively in other channels.  Also because you can include more information on a leaflet to explain the product and to encourage response they tend to work well for direct response advertisers.  Lots of telco’s, mail order, charities, financial services products all delivers cost effective volumes of response through door drops, generally using Royal Mail as the distribution method which is more expensive (£40 per ‘000) but more effective from a response perspective due to standout.  So because you can target audiences effectively, deliver a detailed message which gets into the hands of homeowners you tend to see that door drops are one of the most cost effective channels for driving acquisition.  Response Rates of 0.1% would equate to positive ROI for most advertisers.

Does randomly non-targeted mail make targeted-mail less effective? Does it at the very least give it a bad name?

I haven’t seen any studies that compare one to the other.  For advertisers using a combination of DM and door drops to the same household they would certainly have to apply frequency capping across both because there will be an optimum level over a year. Direct mail (addressed) typically achieves the highest response rates, often as high as 0.1% – 1%.  Door drops may be 0.01% to 0.1% with press, TV etc at around 0.005%.  DM and Door drop probably does combine to give each other a bad name but response rates are still effective and not on the decline because of poor perception.  The response rates may decline due to changing response habits to digital or increased competition in a category.  Personally because I receive shedloads of door drops for virgin media I wouldn’t even read any DM they sent me so it would negatively impact results for me.  But they are playing a numbers game, they can only deliver cable into certain postal sectors so door drop is the perfect medium to reduce wastage, so whatever decline in performance they get from this approach it is still better than other channels with higher wastage.

What is the key to making content like this stand out?

Like any other media channel the advertiser needs to know their customers or prospective customers extremely well in order to provide a relevant leaflet that speaks to them in the right tone, provides a relevant service at the right time.  A good door drop advertiser builds postal sector ranking models based on multiple data sources which varies by category.  EG in car insurance you know geo-demo profile of target audience, number of cars in household, renewal data, claims data, etc, etc.  So because of all this you can be broadly happy with your targeting (as much as you can be for a postal sector rather than individuals).  So once you have the targeting correct then it’s all about using the leaflet format creatively.  This is often achieved through standard approaches in terms of benefit led, product detail, strong call to action etc but occasionally you see very creative items which are made out of different materials (I saw one from DIY retailer which you could plant and turn the leaflet into flowers).  More recently clients have started to try to use the door drop as a way of accessing content via QR codes, etc.  More needs to be done, linking door drop to mobile makes total sense.

If people are frustrated about the amount of door drop content, is there anything they can do about it?

You can register on the mail preference survey list.  Also Royal Mail has its own list as well to stop unaddressed mail but this won’t stop teams or local paper distribution so they propose the customer uses a ‘no junk mail’ sticker on the door.  The Direct Marketing Association are a good source of options available.



Many businesses struggle to encourage teams to keep their timesheets up to date – which leads to frequent emails chasing to complete them, and lack of up to date data on client resourcing – and ultimately profitability. I’d also wager that the longer from the moment of doing the work that it is captured and reported, the less accurate it becomes.

Our CSO (and my boss) sent a few folk internally an email about how we could encourage positive behaviours around timesheets. We have a specialist team with decades of experience in behaviour change within our Insight team, so it felt like a natural brief to include them in – but being a contrary type, my immediate response was: the question is wrong.

The challenge isn’t “how can we encourage people to keep their timesheets up to date”, but rather “how can we reliably and accurately report upon what people are doing with their time”.

Without doubt, timesheets are universally loathed. They are painful to complete, they are rarely accurate, and they take time to complete, creating a meta-loop of logging time on your timesheets for completing timesheets. They are a relic of an old way of doing reporting and data collection – and are completely out of step with how modern data collection works.

If you had a blank sheet of paper, and you were designing a process which allowed you to capture what people were working on, you wouldn’t end up with timesheets as the answer.

Automation. Ambient sensors. Big data. Natural language processing. Location data. Apps. Calendar data. Emails. Texts. Instant Messenger. Card entry systems. Intention casting. Predictive analyis. Pattern recognition. We are practically drowning in new forms of interface and data analysis which shift the very way in which we design systems for understanding systems.

But what do you end up with?

That’s my question, and that’s what I’ll be exploring over the coming months before Xmas.

Now, what job code should I put this under?


One Year of Junk Mail – Data so far.

It’s one month of being in the flat, so I’m publishing the September data today – 41 pieces of Junk, of which a whopping zero were interesting or particularly compelling to read (I’ll let you know that already things have changed in October – perhaps September is a poor month?).

You might be surprised (or not) to know that Estate Agents are the clear leader with 7 items (17% share of mailbox), followed by Takeout Menus (5) and Health/Wellbeing (5) – which ironically cancel each other out.

You can see all the data here, and I’ll be posting monthly updates to the data as we go. I’ll also start logging the amount of non-DM mail which comes through (i.e. actual real letters) to truly reflect what proportion of mail is marketing vs. ‘real’.

You can follow the project at http://oneyearofjunkmail.tumblr.com/