Now we get inundated for 12 days around Christmas and then it’s back to the pizza flyers and offers to clean your drive. This nostalgic pine for a stamped, addressed envelope may feel like the past, but in terms of cut-through and brand amplification, it seems to be very much of the future.



Mail just got an ology

Neuroscientific research shows that mail has a 33% stronger impact on engagement or personal relevance compared to email. In order to be memorable and light up our brains, it needs to have relevant content and show clear, distinct benefits, especially in a visual way.


According to studies from the Royal Mail Market Research Team it seems that the novelty of a letter is a sure fire way of getting your message the eyeballs it deserves. The first three seconds are key and Royal Mail employed eye tracking software to test how the brain views direct mail designs by hierarchy, as humans don’t usually start at the top and read downwards in a linear fashion.


Unsurprisingly the brain is attracted to images first and foremost, followed by areas of large text and or graphics. This pre attentive processing is all done within three seconds and the decision as to whether to file it or fling it will be done in that initial decision time.


The brain subliminally scans for relevance, importance and resonance and parameters such as whether the letter is addressed to you and personalised will also affect the decision to read on and buy the content.



What happens to the mail?

Statistics from the Market Research Team show that in terms of receiving direct mail, 1/3 of action takes place on the first day with 187 for every 1,000 pieces being filed for later consumption. This compares to 234/1000, which will be classed as ‘to be looked at later’, whilst 110/1000 will be put in the ‘usual place’. So if you are receiving vouchers from Sainsbury’s you’d tend to file it, if it was a letter about car insurance renewal, it would go to the pile to be read when you’re in more of an administrative sort of mood, whilst if it was your renewal certificate, it would probably go straight to its usual place – the cupboard under the stairs, or a groaning pile of documents to be housed – depending on your own levels of OCD…



Let’s get physical

Mail is remembered, especially if it’s tactile and you have to engage with it physically. Fold outs, sticky glue dots, post it notes and most simply of all envelopes all add a three dimensionality to the post and ensure that the reader has to understand the mechanism, whilst at the same time read and retain the content so as to ascertain what to physically do with it next.


As the sender, you also need to decide if the DM has an informational or instructional purpose. Do you want to say all you have to say within the piece, or is there a strong call to action to go online for instance for further information? Will three dimensionality actually be a hindrance and a barrier to getting over the information, or is it the best and simplest way of breaking down the instructions?


Despite A4 and A5 being standard sizes in print and corresponding to equally handy sized off the shelf envelopes, DM doesn’t always have to be a standard size. So long as it goes through the letterbox should be the only concern, as well as the cost of postage.


Something out of the ordinary will stand out. An envelope ensures that the recipient has to engage with the post, whilst a printed envelope creates further intrigue.


The final insight from the Royal Mail was that DM can and should work as part of an omni-channel approach to include email. Where companies use digital as a way of sending expedient and excessive amounts of email, DM could be a way to speak to your existing database in a more meaningful way than just as part of a lead generation strategy to bought data for example.