We asked our client Judith Donovan CBE, who chairs the Strategic Mailing Partnership and is a former direct marketing agency owner, to share her thoughts on the role of direct marketing in the current climate.

As businesses consider the best way to communicate with their customers during the current crisis, direct mail remains a trusted and effective channel.

Organisations are acting swiftly to evolve, with some reinventing themselves in amazing, unusual and peculiar ways in order to stay afloat.

Pre-Covid-19, marketers were switching from paper communications to online to reach a time-poor audience well used to checking emails on their daily commute. But with the UK on lockdown and so many self-isolating or furloughed, the game has changed almost beyond recognition.

As we are frequently reminded, self-isolation is life at a different pace. People now have the time to sit down and read. To digest and fully evaluate the information put before them.

We’ve been told to stay home to stay safe – so why would brands want to fill up people’s inboxes when they can reach them in their own private sanctuary? And at a time when they’re likely to have the spare hours to leaf through a brochure or read a newsletter.

We may be safe at home, not stuck, but it’s still nice to plan what we’re going to buy and where we’re going to go once the lockdown is lifted.

It’s not as though it’s a step back in time; today’s direct mail can be targeted, personalised and agile, just like its digital cousin but with the added bonus of being regarded as more trustworthy than an online advertisement.

Door drops, for example, are perfect for restaurants switching to take-aways or pubs offering beer to drink at home.

Innovations such as partially addressed mail can put brands directly in front of their target audience without the fear of falling foul of GDPR requirements. Because it’s based on postcode data, rather than on personal details, partially addressed mail goes to a designated household rather than to an individual.

Unsurprisingly, it’s an incentive that is proving popular – according to statistics1, just under three million partially addressed letters were sent out in the UK in 2019, compared with 10 million addressed mailings.

Many brands have shunned a digital-only strategy in favour of an integrated one including print. What brands know about their customers can be used to create anything from a personalised cruise brochure to an elaborate, advent calendar style offer booklet.

Yes, we are currently in previously unchartered waters. However, it is vital to remember that direct mail is remarkably resilient. It can not only reach households who are self-isolating, it provides an antidote to social media that at best can be overwhelming and at worst is used to perpetrate myths and fake news.

Amid a sea of uncertainty, direct mail is a proven and effective channel that can strike just the right cord at a time when brands will be remembered not only for what they said, but how they said it.

Judith Donovan CBE