Political Direct Mail – How Good Was It In the 2015 Election?
I live in the Keighley constituency and have taken a good look at the quality of political direct mail.
The last five elections has seen Labour win 3 times and the Conservatives twice. The constituency covers 63 square miles and almost 75,000 voters. The Prime Minister showed up in Addingham on Sunday last when the inaugral Tour de Yorkshire cycle race came through.
I’m passionate about direct mail and so I wanted to take a closer look at the political direct mail that was sent through to the households of Keighley. The first thing to note is that political direct mail has been a major part of the election effort. Apart from a couple of TV debates and interviews on radio and TV, which encourage mass zoning out, political direct mail has offered candidates a real chance to communicate one-to-one with the constituents. It has summarised, reinforced and showcased policies and people. That is, except for the Liberal Democrats, who didn’t send anything to our household.
The thing about an election is all competing offers show up at the same time. Usually, users of direct mail can benefit from showing up alone. However, the political process hurtles toward a clear end date – yesterday, the day before polling day. Today, as I write, thousands of people are placing their crosses on ballot papers in polling stations across this constituency. Tomorrow, we’ll know who succeeded. But, did the candidates give themselves the best chance by creating great direct mail? Let’s see.
Over the past few weeks I have kept as much of the political direct mail sent to our house as I could get my hands on. Labour has sent around 13 pieces, the Conservatives 10 and one from each of UKIP and the Green Party. There were several variants, from hand written envelopes with dreadful photocopy paper inside, to superb one-piece mailers which skilfully revealed a message bit by bit. Some communications were also designed expressly for the committed voter to turn the piece into a window poster.
In no particular order, because I don’t wish to influence your political vote, merely your interest in direct mail advertising.
I looked at Format, Personalisation, Images Used, Message, Headlines, Offer and Call to Action.
- If you are going for a one-and-done approach expect not a lot. Sequences of mailings work best.
- UKIP chose to send one rather flimsy A5 postcard, printed outside the constituency. Shame really as there are plenty of good printers within it.
- It may be me, but I thought the Dear Voter salutation was cold and a large connection fail.
- The image on the postcard was okay, but the smile made me feel he had arrived to fire me!
- The short letter was entirely about him and not about what he could do for me. This is a marketing fundamental.
- The purpose of a headline is to get you to read the rest of your communication. Blandness and wishy washy platitudes don’t do it for me. I suspect Nigel Farage could write a far better headline.
- All advertising should carry an offer – a direct response rule! Here the offer is kind of what UKIP promise to do in Government, but empathy would have been heightened if the words used linked the policies to how I’d be better off by supporting them.
- When you use direct mail make sure that the recipient knows what to do next. Here it is simple enough. Vote for me. UKIP didn’t bother to ask. Not a good sign.Do you agree? Add a comment and let me know if you spot anything I have not highlighted or that the candidate could have done better.
- These guys crammed loads into a 4 page leaflet and on the whole it worked well.
- Except, they did not personalise. Direct mail response rates can lift by 40% with personalisation. Who can afford to ignore such an uplift?
- What really spoiled this leaflet was the quality of their images. Maybe they were rushed, but blurry front cover candidate shots?
- To counter this negative though, someone had thought a little about copy. The Greens are all about making us believe there is an alternative system, so the repeated use of the word ‘imagine’ catapults you into a future state in an impressive way.
- The headline resonated as it echoed TV debate sound bites. Powerful, to the point and challenging.
- The Green offer was as much about engagement, they are playing the longer game here. So the use of hash tag links for each policy area was smart, as was their clarity on local priorities.
- Whilst you were invited to vote for the Green Party, the preponderance of contact routes will make it hugely problematic to track response to the leaflet. They should care, as should every direct marketer that response is measured.
The Green Party score 6 out of 10 for their 4pp leaflet.
- The Labour Party have sent some impressive direct mail in this campaign. This postcard is not bad but could have improved really easily.
- The first noticeable positive was the tailored Postage Paid Impression. This is available to businesses too, a clever way to infer authority.
- This postcard was created digitally, and they have made sure to include the name of the recipient on the front cover. Well done for this.
- Icons are also cleverly used on the postcard.
- I suspect the card was targeted at young voters – another plus – as the range of policies (offers) appear to focus in part on their specific concerns (e.g. tuition fees).
- There was no clear headline – which give the desire to personalise, was a missed opportunity. Surely the number one goal of political direct mail is build massive empathy with the cause by making the policies hugely relevant to you as a person? Actually, that’s the same for all businesses…
- I especially liked the repetition of their main offer on BOTH sides of the postcard. This is a good tip for marketers, tell them and tell them again!
- Again, a digitally printed piece that is all about personalisation, and they couldn’t dream up a way to make the call to action personalised? Pity.
The Labour Party score 6 out of 10 for their postcard.
- The Tories sent out a personalised tri-folded DL sized leaflet.
- Great use of personalisation especially “A personal message for voter’s name”. If I didn’t know better the image at the side of this message featured a young person. If this was deliberate, they may have won this local direct mail contest! However, I expect it was more about the candidate’s picture than any attempt to make the images relevant too!
- Talking of images, can you see how grainy the images are?
- I mentioned empathy beforehand. Perhaps easier for the incumbent MP, but I genuinely think this leaflet was getting there, until I spotted the PR speak in the road plans article. Can someone take a note – if this candidate had spent a couple of hours, forget that, a couple of days, writing copy from his heart and forbidding his PR team to screw things up, he might have had a real shot with this leaflet.
- There was a headline, but on 3 lines. This is as much a printing challenge, since some people have long names and some have short names. They wrap at awkward places, so the designers ended up – weirdly – putting the candidate’s name on one line, a part headline on the next and the voters name on the third. It’s not like there wasn’t space to do this in a more convincing way.
- This leaflet got closer to empathy than the others, but royally missed an opportunity to ask for the recipient to vote for him!
The Conservative Party score 6 out of 10 for their tri-fold DL leaflet.
On the strength of the direct mail, I would expect a very close run thing in Keighley. This article is being published about an hour before polling stations close. Taking direct mail seriously isn’t hugely hard, and there are still quite a few people around who get it. The medium is doing well again. It is no surprise, it is powerful. It does persuade. It does raise awareness, generate interest, create desire and get people to take action. That’s why I’d recommend it, not just to politicians, but to most businesses.
My last point is that as most people are suggesting a close run election, just how important could the design of these direct mail solicitations have been?
Drop your answers in the ballot box below! Thank you!