Canada Post Smartmail MarketingTM promises a more intelligent approach to direct mail. To learn what this means for marketers, we talked with Bill Gunton, Vice-President Marketing and Commercial Products at Canada Post.
Question: For those who haven’t heard of it until now, what is Smartmail Marketing?
Bill Gunton: Smartmail Marketing is a new approach to direct mail that uses its most powerful attributes to amplify the impact of your marketing.
Q: What makes it different from direct mail?
BG: It’s a new way of thinking about how marketers use mail. We call it The Science of Activation because it combines three elements – physicality, data and connectivity – to create a message that’s more relevant and more engaging.
Q: Where did this new approach come from?
BG: We’re always talking with marketers. More and more, they were telling us that they’re seeing tweets, clicks, follows and so on, but online engagement hasn’t been converting to the sales they expect. Marketers may be well-versed on techniques for creating interaction, but in doing this, some have forgotten about tactics that drive action, like direct mail.
Technology is changing the context of direct mail. So we researched precisely how consumers relate to mail today. How do people interact with it? Why does it work? What makes one approach more effective than others? These are answers that marketers are looking for.
Q. What kind of research was involved?
BG: We had ethnographic experts look at how mail gets from the mailbox into a customer’s hands and into their lives. This study combined with extensive international research in our white paper, Breaking Through the Noise.
We also had neuroscientists use brain-imaging to see how the mind reacts to direct mail. We could actually see how easy direct mail is to understand and how persuasive it can be compared to similar messages sent through digital media. The study, A Bias for Action, revealed the differences between how physical and digital media impact the brain.
Q: Were there any of the research results that surprised you?
BG: The first study let us put numbers to what many marketers already instinctively know. I think we’ve all held onto direct mail that’s interesting, whether it’s takeout menus, catalogues, or flyers for home improvement services.
What I personally found fascinating were the insights from the neuroscience study. There’s sometimes a gap between what consumers say they think and what they actually think. The brain imaging let us watch how physical materials are received differently. We could actually see why direct mail can be better at closing the marketing-sales loop.
What’s great about both of these studies is how current and relevant the information is. They look at direct mail in the context of today’s technology, and how DM is part of the mix
Q: What’s changing about how we use mail now?
BG: Let’s come back to those three elements: physicality, data and connectivity. All three now have more to offer, and can be more integrated.
For example, some direct marketers say that sixty percent or more of your response comes down to your list, which is your data. If you consider just that, you might be content to send a catalogue to your best customers, and hope that it drives them to the website.
But data now includes information like recent purchases and wish lists. What if you used this information to send each one of your best customers a custom mini-catalogue, with items they selected themselves? Today’s digital printing makes it possible.
Near-field communications and QR codes turn a print catalogue into an online purchase with a quick tap on a smartphone. Whether you tie your direct mail to your website, or to an integrated campaign, your mailing can become connected to a much larger message.
Q: Now that Smartmail Marketing is out there, what do you see as the biggest changes coming to the mailbox?
BG: Technological innovation is just going to continue. I see this naturally extending to direct mail. There is an enormous opportunity for marketers to build connectivity through mail. Data is going to be playing an ever-increasing role. And I’m excited to see how marketers use new personalization technologies.
Canada Post is committed to staying at the forefront of these changes, making ongoing investments in products, services and education to help marketers solve the challenges they’re facing now, and in the future.
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