How mail can support brands during COVID-19 and beyond

In my previous blog ‘How brands can stay relevant in crisis times’ I outlined why brands should keep communicating with their customers and the importance of relevant communications during challenging times.

Customer Experience, Strategy

Written by Eve Stansell

Illustrated Mail

Since then, the lockdown measures have and will continue to ease as many businesses start to re-open their doors.

And while the Government outlined their strategy, there is no panacea for the crisis as the threat of a second outbreak during the colder months continues to prevail.

What we can be sure of as marketers – is that advertising spend has plummeted and brands will need to continue to adapt and hold their customers close to survive.

A critical time for brands

“Brand health becomes vulnerable when companies stop advertising. 
If they do this for longer than six months, it destroys both short- and long-term health."

- Jane Ostler, Kantar Insights Global Head of Media

Jane advises brands to change their media, messaging and touchpoints to ensure they are reaching consumers with communications they are most interested in. Marketers should look at how budgets can be spent most effectively to maintain a presence and key brand metrics if spend does need to be reduced.

It’s so important that your brand thinks about the message and its context.

“64% of the UK agree that how a brand responds to the crisis now will have a huge impact on their likelihood to buy from them in the future”
Source ‘Edelman Trust Barometer March 2020’

Now and beyond think about:

  • What is important to consumers?
  • What do people want to hear about from brands?
  • How is the situation affecting media and messaging?
  • Is there a role for one-to-one media and how can it help?

How our behaviour has changed

We changed our behaviours and have tried new brands and categories:

  • Ordered more food online from supermarkets, direct to consumer websites and takeaway delivery
  • Hygiene continues to be a priority as we invest in products like hand sanitiser and antibacterial handwash
  • Online fitness classes continue to boom, there has been huge growth in virtual fitness
  • While we may be experiencing a degree of virtual social networking fatigue – video conferencing, social channels and apps are still a way for people to connect
  • Digital streaming services are still popular with the launch of new channels and cinemas releasing films directly to live streaming
  • People continue to invest in their homes as holidays are put on hold and DIY and home improvement becomes more of a priority.

Consumers have prioritised brands that are crucial to daily life

Critical brands: Essential services and products needed to meet individual needs.
For example: Grocery, Telecommunications, Financial Services and Home Entertainment.

Supportive: Companies that deliver or have adapted to deliver the things we need.
For example: Restaurants who offer food delivery, online shopping, online education and virtual fitness.

On Hold: Companies who aren’t central to daily life or don’t have relevant messaging now.
For example: Airlines, travel insurance.

People still look to brands for guidance

Kantar Global Survey March 2020 research involving 35,000 consumers shows that while only 8% of consumers think brands need to stop advertising during the Covid-19 outbreak, they have a clear expectation of their role:

  • 78% believe brands should help them in their daily lives
  • 75% said brands should inform people of what they’re doing
  • 74% said companies should not exploit the situation.

Consumers expect brands to use a reassuring tone, offer a positive perspective and communicate brand values.

IKEA focus on the importance of home and Nike communicate the need to stay indoors – they’re seen as supportive of government messaging and health organisations, while staying true to their brand values.

Those brands that continue to develop a genuine purpose stand out

People will remember those brands who supported the nation and lead the way such as:

Premier Inn: Premier Inn opened their hotels up to keyworkers. They also offered customers full refunds or the flexibility to rebook for future stays.

Iceland: Iceland were the first supermarket in the UK to offer priority shopping times for vulnerable audiences.

Burberry:Burberry repurposed their trench coat factory in Yorkshire to make non-surgical gowns and masks for patients in UK hospitals.

Heinz: Heinz used their expertise to ensure schoolchildren still get their much-needed free breakfast.

The power of a letter

Boris Johnson wrote to every household about the social distancing rules and has included a leaflet detailing support available.

Using the power of mail to deliver important messaging that will reach everyone, those who aren’t otherwise getting the message, non-digital and vulnerable, those who want to spend time with the message.

There are many reasons why brands should consider using mail

  • Tactile, it’s something your audience can touch
  • Personal and relevant, builds a strong connection
  • Mail can tell a story like no other medium with the ability to detail complex messages through long copy
  • Gives your audience a physical reminder or offer which can be kept and redeemed at the right time
  • A visual extension of your brand in the home
  • Mail is responsive, it motivates behaviour and encourages action.

People value mail and give it their full attention

As people are confined at home, they may be more likely to give mail even more time and attention. It can be a welcome break from increasingly digital lives.

Do the following statements relate mostly to mail or email you receive from companies?

Mail can be targeted to different areas and hard to reach audiences

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council needed to reach 135,000 vulnerable and older residents and get them to contact the council if they needed help with shopping, accessing medical supplies or general support during the lockdown phase of Covid-19. The information needed to be communicated fast and responded to correctly.

Mail allowed the council to accurately target vulnerable residents without wastage. It had the space to send out detailed information, it was secure and could be filed for reference. The mailing was designed to be easy to read using accessible font and clear and simple instructions. Residents who needed help were asked to use email as the primary response or a dedicated phone number to avoid overloading the call centre.

Using Hybrid Mail’s print capability, CFH Docmail produced the mailing and mailed it within 48 hours.

“A mailing provided us with the best vehicle to send out very detailed instructions and to give the recipient the chance to read and re-read what they needed to do and to feel as secure as possible they would receive appropriate help.”

– Sandwell Metropolitan Council

The importance of personalised, relevant messages on brand perception

Research shown within Reuters ContentConnect II (2018 Edition) suggests that relevant content increases receptiveness. Brands should deliver high quality content that is relevant and has purpose.

  • 63% Agree that personally relevant content improves how I feel about the brand associated with it;
  • 58% Agree they see brands in a more positive light if they provide them with content that matches their interests
  • 77% of consumers expect more personalised content in the future.

Mail and digital integrate beautifully to deliver a more immersive one-to-one customer experience

Research shows that mail drives different levels of digital behaviour.

Making your marketing more memorable

Mail integrates with other media making messages stronger and more memorable, it can even make social media more memorable.

Brain response to the same social media ads was very different among those who saw mail first. The social ads elicited lower visual attention – but were more strongly encoded into people’s memory.

In fact, +44% stronger.

Messaging can be tailored to support the brand

Given that consumers have prioritised brands that are crucial to daily life, targeting allows mail messaging to be truly relevant to every audience and can deliver the following:

Critical information and services

These can involve essential services and products needed to meet individual needs like grocery and financial services.

  • Mail puts vital information into the hands of individuals and households
  • It can be local information, detail opening times and any support available
  • Mail guides audiences to online support
  • QR codes enable a more seamless online journey, mail can provide guides for those who are less digitally savvy and teach them to upskill
  • Deliver targeted messages to key audiences: help for the vulnerable, benefits for loyal customers.


Those who have adapted to deliver things that we need like local restaurants, online education and fitness

  • Mail can help communicate what has changed and the benefits to the customer
  • Whether the business is still open or has extended or adapted its offer, and where to go to access information
  • Remind lapsed audiences of what their brand can deliver
  • Update on services or catalogues can drive people online
  • Offer a new reason to consider such as home delivery, online content, why donations are needed now.

On hold

While many businesses are reopening, there are others who will take longer to fully reopen such as airlines and international travel.

  • Update customers on how your brand is responding
  • Make services available
  • Show community support
  • Messages about how your brand has played a role in supporting the community
  • Honour refunds and rebookings, demonstrate customer commitment with an offer for the future
  • Consider discount voucher or preferential booking.

Looking ahead... mail will continue to support brands as they move forward

Your business may be facing a variety of challenges:

  • Acquiring new customers

  • Lost customers

  • Loyal customers who feel abandoned

  • Communicating new ways of working

Every category is different. Online grocery for example, will have acquired new audiences as more over 70’s shop online, but will equally have isolated some of their more loyal customers by being less available to them.

Welcome packs can set out the benefits of a new relationship

Pets At Home’s VIP club welcome pack sets what to expect and how to get the most out of your ‘Very Important Pets’ membership.

A thank you can go a long way to keep your brand front of mind

Don’t be reluctant to remind customers of your brand, a simple thanks can go a long way – and keep you front of mind.

  • 60% feel that mail from brands they value keeps the organisation top of mind
  • 57% think it mail from brands they value inspires them to think more positively about it.
    Source: Royal Mail MarketReach ‘This time it’s personal’

Vouchers and discounts can drive repeat behaviours

Vouchers can be an engaging way to incentivise customers back to your business.

  • 58% of high internet activity users keep vouchers and discounts sent by mail for more than a week.

Source: Touchpoints 2019 Base: High Internet activity

Recognition and tangible value can re-engage as it did for JustEat

JustEat leveraged the use of Programmatic Mail to deliver an agile, intelligent direct mail strategy which ensured recipients would receive offers and promotions at the right place, right time, every time.

A personalised postcard can reactivate email unsubscribers – an American wholesaler that delivers bulk products to customer’s doors wanted to re-engage email unsubscribers.

The moment a customer unsubscribed from the email programme they were triggered into a programme that digitally created a personalised postcard built around their favourite items – allowing to continue the conversation after the customer had unsubscribed.

Landing on their doormat within 24 hours of unsubscribing, this personalised postcard – with a 15% discount was sure to surprise and delight.

The postcard made a big impact with 35% of unsubscribed customers responding.

Mail can deliver powerful support in the immediate and long term

Mail is valued, memorable and trusted, it can offer your brand many benefits. Here are some tips on how you can utilise mail in the current climate:

  • Customers are looking for brands to take the lead, help them in their daily lives and communicate what they are doing to make a difference. Mail gets you into customers’ homes and hands to deliver real value
  • Mail gives you the time and space to get your brand positioning and your message right – relevant, useful, helpful, clear
  • Consumers are expecting a reassuring tone and positive outlook that aligns with your brand values. Taking the time to write says a lot about a brand and its commitment to customers
  • While email is quick to update, consider mail for more complex information and brand cut-through – a serious message usually carries more weight in print form
  • Mail has the power to be personal, relevant and localise content while also reaching out to vulnerable audiences
  • Every brand and sector has been affected by the pandemic. Those that stay close to customers by delivering the right messages in the right (not just the fastest) way will see the benefits in the longer term.

If you’d like any support or advice on how you can use mail to stay front of mind during this challenging time, please contact one of our marketing specialists. Their advice is available to you for free:

Download our eBook 'Physically Irresistible' showcasing the most inspirational direct mail from around the world and see how the power of physical can help your brand connect with customers in their homes.

Source: Royal Mail MarketReach/ Kantar TNS, 2017. Base 1,269 UK adults, nationally representative sample

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