Have we underestimated the power of the letterbox flyer?


Junk mail was always something of an annoyance. Its short life spanning the journey from the letterbox to the recycling bin. 

Maybe I’ve been too harsh. Apparently 2020 saw somewhat of a renaissance for direct mail. You may never have thought it, but it seems that the pandemic has boosted our engagement with the advertising leaflet.

Research commissioned by Royal Mail (ok, maybe I’m sensing a little bit of vested interest here…) revealed that consumers engaged with 96% of all mail during the first lockdown. They interacted with each item 4.5 times on average and 88% of those surveyed said that they paid as much or more attention to flyers landing on their doormats than before the lockdown.

Whether this is testimony to the growing power of direct mail or simply the almighty levels of boredom that were reached during lockdown, I’m still uncertain. We were a captive market!

There were, however, several interesting points made in the research. Firstly, that the number of people heading online after being prompted by a piece of direct mail has increased 70% year-on-year.

For me, this seems to go beyond the arrival of the post breaking the daily monotony of lockdown. To actually look up the company online requires some concerted effort. There’s no hyperlink to press! These advertisements are engaging enough in themselves to provoke interest and action.

Another intriguing point is that mail has seen its credibility as a medium rise after the government’s adoption of postal communications to the public during the coronavirus pandemic. 

I know that for many national TV and radio proved a great comfort during the depths of lockdown. The familiarity was reassuring, information from these big corporations felt reliable, and in a strange way there’s a sense of community when watching live TV or listening to radio.

Does physical mail touch on the same emotions? Established, traditional, reliable? 

At the very least key communications are less likely to get diverted to the spam box. We’ve kept hold of our official coronavirus correspondence from the Prime Minister. I wonder how many other households have done the same. Hopefully the grandkids can flog them on eBay for a small profit!

Maybe Royal Mail needs to build on its success and start pushing letter writing as a mindfulness practice? Breaking free from the screens, meaningful connections with loved ones, a “slow”, meditative craft… Someone needs to get in touch with their marketing department, imagine the stamp sales!

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