Magazine article Marketing

Financial Mailing: Gold or Garbage?

Magazine article Marketing

Financial Mailing: Gold or Garbage?

Article excerpt

Financial services marketers judge their sector's mail to be poor.

To sit in judgement of others can be a dangerous and powerful thing--but it can also be informative and a lot of fun. And judging, albeit of a non-award-giving nature, was the order of the day when a select group of financial services marketers and Royal Mail employees were brought together a couple of months ago for a "Through the Mailbox Day".

The idea of the Royal Mail roundtable event was for marketers to have the chance to look at, analyse, and rank direct mailings within their own industry sector. The morning was spent frantically pouring over almost 80 mailings, while after lunch, the group discussed the relative merits or failings of the different pieces.

Because the financial services sector covers such a wide range of functions, the mailings were split into 11 separate categories: bank services, personal loans, savings and investments, corporate finance, personal pensions, travel insurance, credit cards, loyalty schemes, home and motor insurance, financial advice, and general finance.

Each mailing was given a mark out often and the participants wrote comments where appropriate. The scores were a reflection of the general look of the mailings but everyone was asked to take into account certain criteria such as creativity, branding, targeting and clarity of message. Additional targeting information was also provided on each mailing such as sex, age group, TV region and social class.

Armed with endless information but limited time, the assembled marketers sifted through the mailings. Although there was a large volume to get through, each mailing still received a longer perusal and evaluation than most consumers are likely to give any mailshot that drops through their letter box.

Presented with the challenge of evaluating so many mailings, all the judges felt they became harsher critics, the more mailshots they saw. Perhaps luckily, there were almost no cases where marketers had to pass judgement on their own company's mailings and the occasional muttering was heard about how glad the judges were that their direct mail wasn't being scrutinised in such a way.

The bad news for the DM industry is that the quality of the mailings was deemed very poor. People felt there was too much similarity between the different mailshots with the consequence that very few stood out and they all felt too formulaic. Given that many of the attendees were judging their competitors, there was genuine surprise by many people that the quality wasn't better.

Isabel Wade, head of strategic market development for the Royal Mail, collated everyone's scores and comments. She says the two comments that came up most often were "patronising" and "cheesy".


Of all the sectors, credit cards faired particularly badly. The sector is at a huge disadvantage in that it has to include terms and conditions with all its mailings. But while one marketer thought the terms and conditions made the mailings "look like toilet paper" there was a feeling that accepting this constraint, credit card mailings were still very 'me-too'.

As Julia Kemp, campaign manager at Royal Mail puts it: "In the credit card business it just needs one company to come in with a different APR and a new way of doing direct mail and it would clean up."

Why is it that so many mailings -- some from big operators--seemed to disappoint so many of the assembled judges? The similarity between the mailings was definitely a contributing factor, especially in this kind of judging situation where such a large volume are looked at in quick succession.

"No one was doing anything particularly different with the format. There were a lot of tried and tested formula, especially in the insurance market," says Beth Warrender, head of advertising market, Royal Mail.

If it can't be done well, don't do it at all, seemed to be one of the strongest sentiments coming from the judges. …

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