What’s wrong (and right) with Royal Mail’s content campaign?

Watch out for creepy video effects and a strange game of hunt Lord Saatchi!

A promoted post popped up in my Twitter feed recently. It came from Royal Mail with an invitation to: “Discover what Lord Saatchi has to say about mail”.

Maurice Saatchi knows a thing or two about marketing so I clicked through and came to the smart mailmen.co.uk site. Produced by Royal Mail’s MarketReach division, it exists to promote their direct mail and door drop services. An analysis of the site, and the wider campaign, reveals elements worth replicating as well as a few to avoid.

Deliver on your promises

I was reading Twitter on my iPhone (of course) so went through to the mobile version of the site. A black mark to start off with as I expected to be greeted with wise words from Lord Saatchi. A quick scroll and a click around and there was no sign.

It was only when I explored the site on a laptop and delved deeper that I found his lordship lurking in a video guide to ‘maximising audience relevancy’. If you’re going to lead with a promise, ensure your UX allows it to be easily delivered.

Mixing photography and video is engaging but weird

The ‘mailmen’ that promote the site are actually male and female business leaders, including the global head of brand at Virgin Enterprises and the CEO of Starcom. They appear prominently on the homepage in a black and white group photograph. But wait a minute. Did Maurice Saatchi just move? There – he did it again! He adjusted his glasses!

Every eight seconds Maurice reaches for his specs and gives them a wiggle. It certainly catches your eye but then either feels like a bit of a gimmick or something from the front page of the Daily Prophet.

On another page there’s an image of Nigel Vaz, global president  at DigitasLBi. Nigel stares out of the screen, his hands clasped in front of him. He’s perfectly still until the magic eight seconds elapses and he drums his fingers.

Here the use of video makes more sense as next to Nigel is a ‘Play’ button. This animated gif (or cinemagraph) draws your attention to the fact that there is a longer film also available. But in general, the effect is a bit creepy. (You can see more examples of cinemagraphs on Shutterstock.)

Don’t ignore the elephant in the room

Royal Mail’s campaign reached me via Twitter and from there I was directed to a website. The UX then nudged me gently to a range of reports that required my contact details to be surrendered. Classic data capture.

I couldn’t get over the fact that digital marketing was being used to promote physical marketing. It felt a bit like giving away bacon sandwiches to promote veganism.

To be fair to MarketReach, there was information on how postal mail and email can work together. It is also true that having captured my data, I could then be sent direct mail to help move me along the sales funnel.

The lesson? Use whatever combination of marketing technologies is required to meet your goal and face up to shortcomings in your product or service: your audience isn’t stupid.

There’s a high-end play for direct mail

It’s easy to dismiss direct mail campaigns as mass marketing, but used well there can be real impact in going old school. Royal Mail case studies include Smart Cars sending innovative cardboard helmets to promote an ebike and Cunard using personalised mail aimed at specific customer segments to encourage re-booking.

Our experience (as part of Progressive Content) with print magazines for clients such as ICAEW and FCSI has taught us that sharing content in physical form truly sets you apart from the competition.

It’s the great variety of options that make marketing such an exciting arena. Royal Mail has embraced tech to up the prestige of their offer. I just hope Lord Saatchi stops fiddling with his glasses sometime soon.

by Miles Kendall. Contact him here.

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