Are Door Drops Above-the-Line or Below-the-Line?

by Rick Pullan on 14/02/2012

A prospect client asked me a really interesting question last week.

“Are door drops above-the-line or below-the-line?”

I know in this age of ‘integrated’ comms this distinction is old money, but it is a tad interesting, (if your prime target market is UK household selections), in terms of how people are still thinking about budget allocation, for example between ‘brand marketing’ and ‘shopper (or trade) marketing’.

  • Your average media planning/ad agency won’t necessarily know, because many of them don’t have door drop marketing in their planners’ tool box
  • Your sales promotion agency will probably say below the line
  • Your dm agency will include it as part of the integrated multimedia schedule, or not
  • Your digital agency probably won’t even have it on their radar.

To answer the question we need to understand what door drop marketing is, because in my experience talking to scores of client marketers over the last five years steeped in embracing digital online media, it’s not understood. My take on it is this:

  • It is a promotion – a leaflet, envelope, sample, invitation popped through the letterbox of carefully selected households
  • It is advertising, targeted promotional advertising
  • If good, it will change consumer behaviour

Price Wars v. Brand Value

2011 has been a perfect storm for marketers, particularly in the packaged goods grocery industry. The price war between the major retailers has forced average shelf prices down for many brands, there is huge pressure on these brand suppliers to fund the discount and consumer buying behaviour is motivated more by discount expectation than brand value appreciation. So says the Institute of Promotional Marketing (IPM), Kantar and KPMG in recent research reports. But this cannot continue. After all, a product’s manufacturing, ingredient, presentation and distribution costs don’t usually go down, so profits are eroded, cash flow will become negative leading to possible bankruptcy.

What the IPM, Kantar and KPMG are advising marketers is this – shift some of this point of sale price discount investment to promoting away from point of sale before people visit the outlet. All the former does is stockpile the larders of existing current consumers. It doesn’t pull in new consumers, which all brands need to thrive. The latter creates awareness and interest with a purchase offer before people get to the shops, linked to normal price at point of sale. This is a win for the trade because there’s a higher cash margin. And it’s a win for the brand for the same reason. And the consumer still has an offer, but wrapped in brand proposition articulation to get under their skin.

The commercial reality is that turnover growth can only come from three sources:

  • Increasing the number of customers
  • Increasing their purchase frequency
  • Increasing the average purchase price

So in the course of an average trading year if you increased each by 15%, you have a 50% growth in turnover. Change the %s how you want, you can do the maths.

My whole ethos is encapsulated in my agency name, The Business Development Agency, so I’m passionate, against whatever metrics the client sets, to show measurable business development from smart marketing application. And I suggest the metrics are based around the above three critical cash flow sources.

Door Drop Marketing – My Secret Weapon

I’ve always been a supporter of door drop marketing…or what I call ‘direct promotional advertising’…ever since I sold a shed load of 3-litre wine boxes through off-licences using it. Another example is a test campaign we did for a famous soup brand driving sales through a leading superstore group. The company’s management accountants declared net extra profit from the activity. So it’s now an accepted part of their strategic marketing mix to drive awareness, trial and penetration without having to cut price at point of sale.

I’m astounded at how misunderstood and under utilised this tool is in the UK marketer’s tool box. If you want to communicate with specific household types in the UK, door drop marketing has to be considered.

What has particularly caught my attention is that over the last few years targeting functionality has been dramatically improved, and since May 2010 has been available nationally through SMART-Drop. However, what’s really harnessed my imagination is that you can now more finely target your brand messages to clusters of 150-200 households, sometimes smaller ones. This means that where using the traditional current system a postal sector of 2500-3000 households may be excluded because of the sub 100 index targeting criteria, it may actually contain some very attractive smaller clusters of households with a higher target index rating than some other postal sectors not excluded.

For the first time we can now identify these valuable smaller clusters of 150-200 households using SMART-Drop targeting, thereby improving message cut through to target households & reducing wastage. I’ve recently used it to great effect for that same famous soup company brand.

Certainly, blanket targeting by postal sector is still appropriate for many products. However, with the extra targeting functionality SMART-Drop provides, the reality is that SMART-Drop is the only marketing medium left where you fully control the targeting to achieve mass awareness amongst your target consumers for response and sales. Please read that sentence again, it’s very levelling.

For many, many commercial scenarios, door drop marketing now is better than TV, which is expensive with massive wastage, this is better if done properly. As a starter here are nine key tips for getting a campaign to market.

If you want to create household penetration and trial, increase purchase frequency or counter price and margin pressure from major retailers, this new improved tool should be deployed. If you’re a dealer or retailer and want to attract the attention of particular types of household, door drop marketing and SMART-Drop should be deployed.

But for Pete’s sake please use an expert, don’t try and do it yourself, because for each tip there is a lexicon of knowledge to be harnessed.

Here’s a little challenge for you – if any of this article resonates with you, share one key issue you’re trying to address in the next six months and I’ll tell you how to achieve it.

Above the line or below the line…you choose…does it matter…what do you think? Click here to learn the secret about the ‘advertising traction’ of door drop marketing and the mathematical leverage it excites. Learn about unique pack codes, e-drop marketing and, if you’re an fmcg marketer, the four key questions you must ask yourself about optimising penetration and purchase frequency during the current superstore price war.

Find out more about Rick Pullan via his LinkedIn Profile

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– who has written 3 posts on Letterbox Consultancy for Door Drop Marketing.


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