Tangible media means hard cash for marketers

12 Mar 2017  |  Jonathan Harman 
Tangible media means hard cash for marketers

Tangible media performs a vital role for brands who want to resonate and build relationships with customers, writes Jonathan Harman

We live in an era of fake news and alternative facts. In marketing all that you knew or thought you knew is turning out to be if not wrong, then increasingly not very right.

Metrics have become unclear and confusing and marketers are increasingly turning to the tried and tested as shown in the IPA Bellwether Q4 2016 report, Main Media Advertising registered an increase in spending, turning a decline from the previous quarter into a +5.1% net balance.

Additionally the fact that Events spend recorded +12% net balances shows that brands understand the need for the personal touch. Making connections isn’t just about using technology to shorten the distance between two points, but connection through feeling; finding the emotional common ground that builds relationships.

Media owners are seeing the results of marketers’ growing confidence in physical media. Immediate Media’s sale to Hubert Burda media for £275m demonstrates the success of targeted physical publications such as Gardeners’ World and BBC Good Food among key consumer segments. More than three quarters of ad spend with newspaper brands remains with the physical product.

Traditional media is also increasingly shaking off its reputation as low measurability, low impact. Outdoor is showing its strength as a performance marketing tool. Ghostbusters’ takeover of a central London station in conjunction with JC Decaux raised not just awareness but built in experience marketing and was amplified and measured with supporting publicity.

Out of home (OOH) media broke the £1bn barrier in 2014, according to the Advertising Association. Digital out of home is undoubtedly playing a role but it is the physical media that is leading the charge.

But it’s in mail that there is proving to be a real turning point in marketers’ conversion strategies. It is cutting through the relentless noise from digital and broadcast and tapping into consumers’ demands for authentic, personalised, targeted and relevant communications.

Importantly, our research has shown mail is strong not just among the presumed consumer heartland of older, more traditional consumers but across the board. Young, supposedly digitally-savvy audiences are waiting for the thud on the doormat actively engage with that mail when it arrives.

The research discovered that 89% of 18-34 year olds open all or most of their mail and 59% of 18-34 year olds have taken action in response to mail.

In even a highly digital audience, we found that 56% of those who browse throughout the day say that "mail makes me feel valued", only 40% say this of email. And while 65% of the general population look forward to finding out what's in their daily post, the figure for 18-24 year olds is 75%.

Email, of course, remains a very popular and immediate form of communication for brands but it’s important to recognise what it can achieve and what its limitations are when compared with mail. In the research , email was associated with the words Quick, Smart, Spontaneous, Informative, Interesting and Informal.

Mail, on the other hand, was thought of by consumers as Believable, Personal, Informative, Official, Considered, Important, Formal and Reliable. Consumers clearly associate mail and email with very different characteristics.

But if you’re putting together a marketing plan these characteristics can also be seen as complementary. Email is seen as being quick and informal - a simple piece of information or news that people can glance at and get in a moment - whereas mail is seen as being believable and reliable.

In fact all of the top associations show that it is a medium of authority. What’s interesting is that mail is seen as ‘personal’ in a way that email is not - even though both are targeted and personalised.

Tangible media performs a vital role for brands who want to resonate and build relationships with customers. They’re a statement of intent. There’s a clear line of sight for the customer. That ad was bought, placed, published so the company could talk to me. No blurring of boundaries between is it an ad or is it ‘content’. With apologies to Ronseal, it does exactly what it says on the tin.

Half of all 18-34 year-olds say mail holds their attention and is easy to digest while between a fifth to a quarter of respondents said they had acted on information in mail. Over a third stated that mail prompted them to make a purchase.

Tangible media has a lot to deliver and when combined with digital media can increase the effectiveness of the campaign overall. While marketers have been turning themselves inside out trying to look for ways to build that intimate connection with customers in new and ever more convoluted ways, part of the answer has been in their hands all along.


Jonathan Harman is managing director of Royal Mail MarketReach

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19 Jul 2019 

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