While many senior managers are now enlightened on the subject of
relationship marketing, few take on board the culture which a company
needs to inspire consistently strong creative work.
Of course, you’d expect the Royal Mail to believe fervently in direct
marketing and one-to-one communication. After all, it owns the
Being a big, bureaucratic organisation can sometimes get in the way of
the obvious. But it was committed enough to question its direct
marketing performance and reviewed its approach in the mid-90s.
One result was a drastic pruning of the number of agencies it used, with
Joshua, OgilvyOne and MBO now leading on direct marketing. Another
outcome was the establishment of what it terms its Centre of
’We were using lots of agencies, perhaps 30 or 40, because an
organisation of our size wants to do lots of different things,’ Mark
Bowler, the director for media and home shopping, who is now taking on
responsibility for the Centre of Excellence, says. ’The trouble is, you
lose the synergy and commonality. Also, we were bombarding the customer
base, which was counter-productive.’
The Centre of Excellence is a system for evaluating every mail-shot in
advance. In theory, the best possible score is 100 per cent. Mailings
that did not achieve at least 60 per cent were not allowed to go out
That threshold has since been raised.
Mike Dodd, a management partner at OgilvyOne, says the three core
agencies were suspicious when the Centre of Excellence was launched,
despite being involved in it. However, the Royal Mail’s stance was that
the way it briefed its agencies was more at fault than their standards
’We quickly realised it was a positive move,’ he adds. ’How often do you
get a client who not only has to provide a written brief, but is then
marked on how good the brief is? It is a powerful incentive for any
agency to know that the client is committed to excellence, and to steady
Bowler says: ’To me, targeting comes first. Having identified a specific
audience, you then need something as creative and relevant as possible
to communicate the message. The key is having all the elements working
together. Since the scheme started, the scores have gone up and
standards continue to rise.’
While the Royal Mail has been getting to grips with the DM ethos for
many years, there are others which recognise the need to understand the
process but have nothing in place. Far from sending out too many
mail-shots indiscriminately, Scoot wanted to know if the direct approach
could be used to help its hard-pressed sales team.
Scoot competes with Talking Pages and Yellow Pages. Callers seeking a
plumber, a garage or whatever are given the names of three local
companies, which pay for the privilege of being on Scoot’s books.
Working with Tequila Payne Stracey, the company identified the best
prospects in six sectors - such as the building trades and health and
beauty - which generated masses of consumer calls, but where the sales
team had difficulty signing enough specialists. The agency then
developed an attention-grabbing mailshot for each sector, to soften the
audience ahead of the sales phone call.
The first leg of the evolving campaign is claimed to have produced
incremental sales of pounds 2 million for an outlay of pounds 200,000.
’Creativity has been important,’ Scoot’s marketing manager, John
Helstrip, says. ’What creativity does is cut through the other mail that
people receive. People remember it, they don’t have to ask who you are.
It gives you a standout - standout relevant to the recipient.’
Agencies and clients, of course, must make a consistent effort to stay
in touch with the target audience. DM offers an extra twist, however -
the ability to isolate segments for different creative treatments. So
both client and agency must keep on each other’s toes to make the
communication as relevant as possible to the recipient.
Last year was the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese calendar - a great
creative peg for the wildlife charity, WWF UK, to step up its
fundraising efforts to help save this animal. A campaign expected to
raise pounds 400,000 pulled in more than pounds 540,000.
To achieve this figure, WWF UK exploited its comprehensive database to
adopt what might otherwise have been considered an overconfident
Vital to the campaign’s success was the ability to segment the charity’s
database of existing and potential donors, and tailor the creative
treatment to match the status of the recipient. At one extreme, letters
were sent to almost 600 of the most generous supporters. Of these, 164
responded with cash donations averaging more than pounds 1,000. Yet the
campaign also recruited 8,000 first-time donors.
’It was a tiered approach,’ Howard Saunders, account director at Smith
Bundy Carlson, says. ’Over the last five years in WWF, we have created a
product, not so much a sub-brand as a club, called the Guardians for
people who have given more than pounds 1,000. They received a more
lavish pack, with higher production values. There was an intermediate
version for people likely to give pounds 250-pounds 500, and a basic
version for the mass of donors.
’When we started the Guardians, pounds 1,000 seemed a bold line to draw,
but it has worked well. However, we also recognise the implications of
People who give at these higher levels like to hear how their money is
being spent. We write to them each year to tell them what we are doing.’