In an increasingly virtual marketing world, is there still a place for the physical?

by Marc Michaels on 16/04/2012

“DOOR DROPS? – that’s the printed stuff that falls on your mat – isn’t it?

“Not very ‘now’, not very ‘social media’.

“Why on earth are you doing that?”

So we ask, in an increasingly virtual marketing world, is there still a place for the physical?

The simple answer is YES.

Indeed, there should be a place in any marketing mix for any media that demonstrates cost effective outcomes and real return on investment (and Facebook ‘likes’ are not payback or ROI, despite what it says on every award submission I’ve read lately).

In my experience across 25 years, door drops have delivered and continue to deliver in spades, regardless of any great digital innovations. The fact that they are left on your doormat means you have to bend down to pick them up and that’s the first test of a good door drop.

Indeed, any time I’ve chaired the DMA awards door drop category, I’ve always thrown the entries on the floor, gathered the judges in a circle and asked them which stand out.

It might be size, shape or branding.

Or it may be that the piece was integrated creatively into a wider campaign, where it has been recognised because of the TV commercial that either prefaces ‘watch out for this leaflet coming through your door soon’, or complements with appropriate linking imagery/content.

On many occasions in Government, from AIDS in 1987 through to Preparing for Emergencies to Voter Registration, Government used TV to set the scene prior to a national door drop and the door drop itself to provide the complexity of content you can’t put over in 30 seconds.

This broadcast activity creates the right environment for the detail to be received as important and research shows that being exposed to both, means the door drop is more likely to be read, kept and acted upon.

At 80p, the launch of the Organ Donor Register through a free newspaper door drop remains the cheapest cost per registration I’ve ever seen.

And whilst TV support and Press ‘mop-up’ activity are appropriate for messages of national importance, door drops in combination with other media are excellent for targeting at a local level and ideal for piloting.

NHS 111, Harmful Drinking and the FSA’s “Money Made Clear” are just a few examples where door drop played a key role in driving quality response in regional pilots, from the right people.

In many campaigns an integrated door drop can benefit enormously from appropriate ‘flighting’ – following on from TV or radio awareness activity.

But we have also seen some evidence of ‘reverse synergy’, where door drops are acting in part as a broadcast media, enhancing general response rates from other media activity in the areas that have been dropped versus where they haven’t.

The door drops are having an ‘awareness’ effect over and above the direct response directly attributable to them.

Indeed all direct media (mail and inserts as well as door drops) are being undervalued in terms of identifiable direct response, as they will prompt online search/web visits, but won’t get the credit for it (unless you’re doing long term econometrics).

There are several ways to address this: quote a response code, use a QR code, use specific landing pages for that media, use a specific key word/short phrase in that media and recognise it in the web analytics, have a pop up media survey on site, watch the uplift after the print drops on the baseline traffic and econometrics.

And there are several excuses for not doing any of these.

However, on Tobacco Education, it was found that for every door drop response we recognised, another 3 had gone through online search – but been recorded as search.

And speaking of online – a) not everyone is online and b) not everyone who is online does everything online.

For the 9 million adults who aren’t connected and for half the population who are ‘light-users’ of the internet, a well executed door drop is invaluable and they can read and digest it there and then without a screen and respond accordingly.

Some of them may even phone or send a coupon/reply card.

Actually lots of them will if they are given the option (which doesn’t always happen) and they are often better quality leads.

So door drops – what do we think now?

  • TANGIBLE and DISRUPTIVE – they are physical, have stand out and can be retained
  • EXPLANATORY – they allow us to convey detailed/complex information simply
  • TARGETED – reaching people geographically and demographically but also
  • BROAD – allowing a truly national communication with the highest reach of any media (probably up to 96% of households in reality)
  • INCLUSIVE – working well against the digitally disadvantaged/disinterested
  • ACTION FOCUSSED – generating high quality leads and sales/behaviour change

In short they work – and perhaps the door-drop industry needs to shout about it a bit more and not cower so much before the mighty internet.

Marc Michaels

Formerly Director of Direct and Relationship Marketing at COI, writing in a personal capacity, as a freelance marketing consultant.

This article does not imply any endorsement of a particular supplier.

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– who has written 2 posts on Letterbox Consultancy for Door Drop Marketing.

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