Leafleters claim a marketing success: Unsolicited messages dropping on the doormat do not always irritate

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The Independent Online
ABOUT 95 per cent of adults recall receiving leaflets through the letterbox. Of these, 39 per cent have sought more information about the product or service, 47 per cent have made purchases as a result, and 37 per cent have tried a new product. About half keep and read at least some of the leaflets received.

Such statisics are encouraging for the leafleting industry. Nick Wells, sales and marketing director of Circular Distributors, feels that the report, commissioned by his company, underlines the power of door- to-door distribution.

Another finding of the survey, carried out by two market research firms, The Human Factor and RSGB, is that recipients expect unaddressed leaflets to be three times as interesting as direct mail, and almost twice as interesting as mail-order catalogues.

Others involved in this side of marketing are suspicious of attempts to make a distinction between supposedly desirable leaflets and 'irritating' direct mail.

'Targeting is the key,' says Jim Addison, managing director of CPM Sales Promotion. Consumers do not really care how they receive information as long as it is relevant and of interest to them, he argues.

For example, a letter offering a loan for buying a car or going on holiday is of little use if received by somebody who has a company car and has just booked his or her annual holiday. Similarly, leaflets promoting a new children's food are unlikely to be well received if delivered to an area with a high proportion of elderly people.

This view echoes Mr Wells's claim that 'however advertising people might see them, leaflets are perceived by consumers as a form of advertising in the same way as press or TV'.

Kevin Holland, head of consumer affairs at Reader's Digest, suggests that the picture is not as simple as Circular Distributors might have us believe. He says that many complaints about 'junk mail' relate to leaflets as well as to personalised letters.

Although the survey, based on a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults, makes much of comments by people annoyed about being sent unsolicited mail addressed to them in person, this is widely seen as a reflection of their increasing sophistication. Having read a great deal about lists of names being sold to people with products and services to sell, they are less likely to be taken in by something that apparently picks them out of the crowd.

Mr Wells suggests that part of the attraction of leaflets is that they are seen as honest, while direct mail can raise expectations that will not necessarily be realised.

Leaflets advertising such services as takeaway meals and minicab firms lend themselves to being kept. But even they may not find space in the homes of those who hate junk food as much as junk mail.