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Pushing the boundaries of direct mail

In today’s information-overload digital age, it’s more difficult than ever for brands to cut through the noise and communicate in ways that authentically resonate with their audiences.

It’s easy for companies to miss the sweet spot of cut-through success by placing too much weight on novelty campaigns that aren’t informed by insightful data about their target audiences. Or, they might get the data bit right, but fail to translate those audience insights into imaginative solutions that will set them apart from the crowd.

Finding the right balance between remarkableness and relevance is a tricky game. And it's one that becomes harder with time, as what was once original becomes old news fast. When it comes to finding the right angle in new spaces, however, tried and tested methods still have their place.

Old dog, new tricks

Take direct mail (DM). Many working in digital fields have come to scoff at "traditional" direct mail as an increasingly irrelevant practice of a bygone era of marketing. But a couple of recent DM campaigns have challenged that assumption, and reminded us that there’s still a place for creating authentic real-world brand experiences driven by both technological innovation and audience intelligence.

Heineken recently launched a new frozen draught, Heineken Extra Cold, in Singapore and for its release the brand took thinking outside the box to the next level.

Ahead of the exclusive media-only launch of the brand – hosted at a swanky club temporarily converted into a subzero experimental laboratory – Heineken sent out DM invitations to target media parties. There was a twist though: each invitation was frozen in a block of ice, which the attendees had to break to retrieve their pass.

Focusing on playful customer engagement and innovation, the campaign proved a big hit online with guests sharing their unique frozen invites across social media.

Paper skyscrapers

Another best-in-class example comes from leading game engine Unity, which launched an impressive augmented reality DM piece aimed at the architecture industry.

The DM pack contained a moleskine diary and QR codes linking to an application and map. Recipients were able to download the app and point it at a map contained within the moleskine to be presented with a 3D augmented reality version of The Shard, which linked them through to further information about Unity’s 3D modelling offering to architects.

Both of these campaigns were eye-opening examples of thinking beyond digital-only campaigns. Powered by intelligent insights and creative imagination, there’s still a valuable place for direct mail in today’s digital-dominated consumer landscape.

In other words, no matter whether it’s a digital or offline campaign, the same age-old philosophy defines the success of a company’s customer engagement efforts: audience insight combined with creative imagination gives the best chance of authentic connection. Though perhaps this is sometimes easier said than done.