Happy Birthday to the Postcode!

by Graham Dodd on 11/10/2019

October 2019 is the 60th anniversary of the birth of the humble postcode.

I’d wager most, if not all of TLC’s clients and LinkedIn readers viewing this post, have never booked any door drop activity without using postcodes?

But it hasn’t always been like that!

Only if you are as old as me, are you even likely to recall booking distribution activity without referring to postcodes.

When I first joined Marketforce in in the late 60’s, the company had a mapping department which consisted of about 6 guys who spent their entire working week producing maps from film negatives, for teams across the UK to use when on territory.

The maps were divided into numbered segments and household volumes were assigned, not dissimilar to postal sectors in volume.

So if you wished to cover all of Derby or any other town in the UK, there was a map and segment list that provided the base for planning.

And yes there was selectivity, but not as you know it!

Marketforce employed an army of Field Managers, who were all allocated geographical territories and the managers generally lived within their territory, partly because of their local knowledge.

So if a client was looking for an ABC1 distribution, the Field Manager would advise which segments were most suitable for distribution.

In truth, to this day, there are still campaigns completed in that manner, but it will generally be the local client, often a branch manager, who selects the districts they would like their leaflet dropped in and we create distribution plans to meet those aspirations.

And if the brief is to drop to the nearest 20,000 households around a fixed location, there is no difference between using segments or sectors.

When Royal Mail decided their workforce, walking the streets of the UK every week delivering addressed mail would also be ideal for distributing unaddressed items, providing competition to the national army of teams, the postcode became potent.

The birth of Mosaic, Acorn, Cameo and the like changed the dynamics massively.

There is absolutely no doubt the introduction of that planning science provided a massive step forward for the door drop industry, but it is interesting that in some business areas, things have not changed hugely.

The door drop final mile supplier options have changed though.

Nationwide teams still exist for solus and shared drops but not to the same scale, their market share has dropped massively and there are many areas where they provide little or no coverage.

Free newspapers became an option and made massive inroads into the client marketplace dominated by team services, in many instances because of distribution efficiency levels and of course cost. But newspapers are now slowly dying and commonly not offering sufficient, robust coverage at postal sector level to warrant inclusion in a regional or national media plan.

Leaving Royal Mail as the industry’s largest final mile supplier – and in my opinion, the most reliable with the greatest depth of coverage, particularly in rural areas.

But in our world as a door drop media independent, its very common to use any appropriate combination of final mile suppliers to best service a client brief, though commonly also influenced heavily by lead times.

The postcode unit, which is exempt from GDPR and is classified as anonymised data, remains crucial in the customer profiling and planning processes, but there are other options!

This article was written by...

– who has written 67 posts on Letterbox Consultancy for Door Drop Marketing.

Graham Dodd is the founder of The Letterbox Consultancy - he has over 40 years of experience in the door drop industry and remains at the forefront of innovation in the business.

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