Health campaign shows benefits of physical channels
The Change4Life campaign showed that consumer behaviour is instinctively multi-channel, and that rumours of the death of direct mail have been greatly exaggerated, says David Reed
Like a greedy teenager at an all-you-can-eat buffet, the Department of Health’s Change4Life programme has piled up four nominations for the Data Strategy Awards, due to be announced later this month. Unlike the overfed teens causing health professionals such concern, however, the C4L campaign has a varied diet.
Although managing activity through an online portal is a cornerstone of this work, direct mail has retained its place in the mix. Consumers who may not have computer access or skills - or those who just prefer the channel - can request information be delivered by this route.
Digital marketers may treat direct mail like a teenager treats sprouts, but the results of the C4L work suggest it still works.
“Obesity is a high-profile issue with the UK following the US trend. If it continues, the health costs by 2050 will be £50bn,” says Central Office of Information senior CRM consultant Adrian Robertson, who has been seconded to Change4Life.
The three-year, multi-phase initiative includes a national health and lifestyle survey which is then converted into a fully-personalised programme of information, tips and encouragement to help families change their eating behaviour. “Direct mail is very much part of that,” says Robertson.
Based on the questionnaire responses, up to 14 million possible combinations of the content can be created. Given the sensitivity of talking to parents and children about their weight and eating habits, a robust infrastructure was created by Lateral Group and Profero, as they explained at a recent DMA event, Direct Mail Driving Digital. This allows participants to choose the most appropriate blend of online, email, direct mail or call centre support.
“The campaign has exceeded expectations with 400,000 surveys returned. Seventy per cent of the database is from clusters deemed to be at risk. Over 80% opted in to further communications, including those who came online and requested paper-based communications,” says Robertson.
What Change4Life demonstrates is that consumer behaviour is multi-channel to begin with. Research backs up the need to incorporate direct mail - 60% of consumers are more likely to be driven to a website they don’t already know by offline marketing, according to a Millward Brown study. Other reasons are also growing, such as DoubleClick finding that the average clickthrough rate for an email campaign has fallen to 0.1%.
Find a medium that drives up response rate, either directly or within an integrated mix, and it is impossible to resist. What direct mail has struggled with is proving its contribution to response and conversion - a problem which recent technology breakthroughs are helping to resolve.
One example has been adopted by O2 for its business subscriber welcome pack, created by AIS, using a new solution from Kyp. “We have developed a new patented technology called WebKey which is like a memory stick and is now part of their SIM mailer to simplify account start-up,” says Kyp chief marketing officer Kevan Lawtonat.
When inserted into a USB dock, the device automatically launches a browser and logs the user into the O2 site. A unique identifier tracks response and personalises the online experience. For this mailout, response hit 24% and Lawton reports rates of up to 50% using the technology. “It is about making the most of using a physical channel for a multi-channel experience,” he says.
Another new solution is e-Bridge from Sony DADC. Using a multi-level optical disk, an advertiser can deliver a rich experience from the mailed item itself as well as linking through to its website. “You can’t just send direct mail with a personalised URL and expect a good response rate.
That is the reason for the coverage of the death of direct mail,” says Christian Dankl, head of business development Europe, digital marketing solutions, Sony DADC.
Google provides the ultimate proof of the need to combine physical and virtual elements. In France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, it has used an e-Bridge disk to provide lessons in how to use Adwords and direct small businesses to an account-opening site. If the largest digital media owner in the world is using direct mail, its death must have been over-stated.
Google mailout: the results
When Google mailed small businesses a disk explaining how to use Adwords, 11.7% unique users played it - 9.6% of them in the high potential segment. Response rate, measured by registration or voucher redemption, reached 1.47% overall and 0.49% for highpotential targets.