INTEGRATED: MARKETING CHALLENGE; Brand building for the Daily Mail’s middle-class aspirants

Robert Dwek ponders the immense contribution of promotions to the leading medium’s striking record

Robert Dwek ponders the immense contribution of promotions to the

leading medium’s striking record

The Daily Mail is on a roll. Voted 1995 Medium of the Year by Campaign,

the newspaper has enjoyed an impressive rise in circulation (now

standing at just over two million) and is tightening its grip on the

midmarket sector. Today has folded, and the Daily Express, despite its

latest editorial rejig and its rather obvious attempts to look like the

Mail, has yet to prove it can reverse its seemingly inexorable decline

and fall.

‘When I started at the Daily Mail in 1983, the Daily Express sold about

500,000 more copies than us,’ Des Nichols, the promotions director for

Associated Newspapers (the owner of the Mail on Sunday and Evening

Standard, as well as the Mail) and the right-hand man to the managing

director, Guy Zitter, recalls. He notes in a matter-of-fact way that the

Express subsequently dropped from a circulation of 2.3 million to the

current 1.3 million.

Nichols, who left the Mail in 1990 and was brought back in 1994 to head

a merged promotions department which now looks after all three

newspapers, is equally matter-of-fact about the role of below the line

in the Mail’s success. He believes it has been key but is loath to

separate it from above the line. ‘They both have a job to do and I don’t

think you can talk about one in isolation,’ he says.

Nevertheless, it is a fact that sales promotion and direct mail have

been given much more emphasis by the Mail over the past few years.

He takes the view that theme advertising is no longer distinguishable

from tactical advertising. The Mail has been linked promotionally with a

number of what Nichols calls ‘aspirational’ brand partners (British

Airways, the National Trust, P&O, the Royal Horticultural Society,

Sains-bury’s, CenterParcs).

‘What I’m trying to do is build up, through these various partners, a

kaleidoscope of middle-market lifestyle interests and aspirations - some

are more aspirational than others. For example, when we choose a hotel

partner, we’ll try to get a deal that allows people to go to a hotel

they might not normally consider within their price range. The same goes

for British Airways, offering scheduled flights to people who might

normally take chartered.’ This steady stream of reader offers adds up to

a form of brand building, Nichols argues.

He also notes that this kind of promotion has proved very potent in

persuading Saturday readers (the highest circulation day) to buy week-

day editions.

Of course, more traditional brand-building ads (currently on view in

women’s magazines) will continue to run, but the real marketing effort

has shifted to ads that relate to promotions.

Most visible of these promotions has been the Instant Cash scratch card,

piloted in Scotland early last year and launched nationally last summer.

Nichols becomes highly animated discussing this promotion, which, he

says, has singlehandedly added more than 100,000 new readers.

He describes the ‘serious challenge’ presented by the launch of the

National Lottery: ‘We were as concerned as anybody that newspapers had

lost one of their biggest promotional weapons, namely, the pounds 1

million prize. But the National Lottery Instants was something we could

compete with and improve on.’

Camelot’s cards unwittingly gave a perceived value to something

newspapers had been doing for some time but which had not previously

been considered valuable by their readers. The Daily Mail exploited the

sudden surge in interest in instant wins so that it appeared to be

giving away something for free that now had a marketplace price tag of

pounds 1. ‘Unlike other newspapers, the Sun for example, we didn’t try

to do anything too clever or anticipate Camelot’s next move. We have

stayed faithful to our original strategy,’ Nichols explains.

The Mail did, however, break new ground by ensuring that winners of

smaller prizes could collect their winnings instantly from the

newsagent. And it worked out a way of increasing the odds of winning

something: while Camelot offered one in six, the Mail managed one in

five. The result of all this lateral thinking was that ‘people were

actually searching out these cards, which hadn’t happened in previous


Such is the Mail’s strength, Nichols says, that it is in danger of being

a victim of its own success: ‘The danger is that by becoming so dominant

in the middle market - and we’re not there yet - we then have to provide

some extra value to get people to read us.’

When Today closed last year, the Mail did just that for Today’s shell-

shocked readers. ‘It was an opportunity we had to seize very, very

quickly,’ Nichols recalls. The Mail sought new readers by putting the

Today logo on its front page, direct mailed them (names and addresses

provided by rented lists) and offered a week’s worth of Daily Mails for

free, followed by a subsidised subscription rate.

‘We got around 90-100,000 readers out of it,’ Nichols claims, adding

that this was far in excess of anything the Sun, Mirror or Express could


Mike Halstead, managing director of HH&S, the Mail’s promotions agency,

agrees that the Instant Cash promotion has been crucial to the paper’s

recent circulation gains.

He also points to the free distribution tactic used in Scotland last

year when the paper was relaunched and to the increased direct mail work

over the past three years. ‘They’ve all left their mark,’ he says. ‘The

formula is to keep it relevant, of value to the reader and to do it

better than the competition.’

Robert Ballin, deputy chairman of the Daily Mail’s ad agency, FCB, does

not feel threatened by all this below-the-line activity: ‘The better the

general perception of the newspaper, the greater the chance that any

promotions you do will be effective.’


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