• Follow Curiously Persistent on WordPress.com
  • About the blog

    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
  • Subscribe

  • Meta

Direct marketing among local restauranters

Leaflets sent to South East London

I get a lot of junk mail through my door. A lot. They span multiple product verticals and initiatives (not to mention religious or political groups), but the majority are food-related. And given that I live in South East London, most of those tend to be fast-food.

So I thought I’d do a little experiment. Rather than immediately throw them away, I’d keep every leaflet or flyer and see if there were any discernible patterns to the madness.

I intended to do this for three months. But I’ve had a rather busy year and by the time I’d managed to put some time in thinking about it, it had been eight months. You can see the results of my hoarding in the picture at the top of this post.


I was surprised I hadn’t received more mail than I actually did, but the numbers break down as

  • 71 – pieces of direct mail from food outlets received over a 35 week period
  • 30 – the number of different companies that sent me direct mail
  • 7 – the number of communications I received from the most active
  • 1 – mailshots from a company I’d previously heard of (Domino)
  • 45 – number of leaflets from pizza companies
  • 14 – number of different pizza companies that sent me direct mail
  • 10 – number of different pizza companies that sent multiple mailshots
  • 5 – number of different Indian restaurants that sent me direct mail
  • 0 – number of different Indian restaurants that sent me multiple mail
  • 11 – remaining outlets (5 Chinese, 3 Kebab, 2 Thai, 1 Lebanese)
  • 63 – number of mailshots for outlets in either SE16 or SE1 (the others were E14, SE8, SE10 and SE14) – the two furthest away from me were both Indian restaurants

(Note: I’ve seen plenty of quant presentations where there’d be happy to break down figures for a sample of 71 into percentages – I’ve even seen one presentation breaking down a sample of around 50 into tenths of a percentage – but this is indicative and so numbers are fine)


Other observations I made include:

  • The only recognised company (Domino) were the only ones not to explicitly mention free delivery. They did, however, specify, that all homes placing an order would be placed on their database, unless they actively opted-out.
  • The minimum size of order for free delivery varied considerably – the highest was the Lebanese restaurant at £15; the lowest was a pizza shop at £6 (though it rose to £8 if you weren’t ordering a pizza)
  • The Indian restaurants tended to specify a radius or a list of postcode sectors that they would deliver to – none of the pizza or kebab places did this
  • All but one pizza outlet mentioned a special offer (in addition to meal deals), but few Chinese and Indian outlets did
  • Special offers would tend to be free side orders or drinks (the kebab places offered non-alcoholic drinks), though a couple of the pizza outlets had BOGOF offers or similar
  • One pizza outlet had a special offer whereby you could win a PS3 with FIFA 10. The leaflet had the official World Cup logo on. As the company is a single outlet in SE London, I doubt this is an official endorsement
  • The pizza outlets mostly mentioned in the small print that any offers had to be explicitly mentioned in the order, though a couple had this information next to the deal itself. No non-pizza outlet said the special offers had to be mentioned
  • Few offers mentioned had closing dates – perhaps because many are continuous or also available in-store. The 5 companies that did have were all pizza companies – Dominos and 4 of the more frequent distributors of flyers
  • None of the Chinese restaurants had a website; only one of the Kebab places did. Conversely, all pizza companies had a web presence.
  • Asian food door drops tended to be slight embellishments on menus, while the other food types tended to highlight the special offers more than the depth of the offering
  • Many of the pizza outlets may have had the same owner, or were part of the same franchise/business network. The designs of their flyers (from A5 to long A4)  and the nature of the special offers (from free muffins to money off) tended to change in line with each other


Smith and Taylor (2004) identified six factors fueling growth in direct marketing

  • Market fragmentation
  • Tailor-made technology
  • The list explosion
  • Sophisticated software
  • Hybrid marketing systems
  • The constant search for cost effectiveness

Of these “rational” reasons, I suspect only the first applies here (with the second a factor only so much as it lowers the cost of executing). Clearly, I live in an area saturated with different options for the avoidance of cooking. Word of mouth will be a difficult thing to achieve, particularly if there is little differentiating the outlets. DM is a cheap way of letting people know your name, location and offering. But with the volume, perhaps outlets are engaging in DM just to avoid losing ground, rather than actively gain it.

With this in mind, I wonder if the main reasons for the volume are “irrational” – copying others as it is perceived to be the thing to do. Not wanting to be left out, despite not really appreciating the nuances of what they’re engaging in.

While there is something to be said of the convenience of having a menu to hand if you spontaneously decide to order takeaway, the DM I’ve collected holds little evidence of a quest to understand ROI. Thus, while there should be a constant search for cost effectiveness, it doesn’t appear to be happening. Admittedly, some flyers do specify that offers should be made explicit, and these could be tied to the postcode of the delivery. I wonder if this happens, and whether different campaigns are compared to one another in terms of effectiveness. It would be nice if they were.


Having not spoken to any of these outlets, this is entirely conjecture. But since many local restaurants – particularly (it seems) Asian ones are local and family-run, it may be the case that there is a business and marketing knowledge gap that could be recognised. Obviously, things like Business Link exist but that and initiatives such as Ogilvy’s Idea Shop (which is a great concept) should be more active in promoting advice.

The strengths of DM are in its accountability and integration with CRM databases. DM allows business owners to understand their audiences and the effectiveness of offers through things such as

  • Comparing different offers in different areas, along with a control group
  • Including overt calls to action, with closing dates
  • Explicitly tying back revenues changes to marketing spend through different offer codes
  • Combining with in-store surveys for those that pick up the food/eat at the outlet themselves

The more effective DM is, the less wastage. Less wastage means fewer leaflets through my door. Which means fewer irrelevant things I have to throw away. Irrespective of my feelings, it also reduces the environmental footprint of a method of marketing that to be seems extremely ineffective and inefficient.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Links – 27th August 2008

Another shorter list. Rather than my getting more clinical in pruning bookmarks, I believe the main reason is that the Internet gets a bit quieter in August (and I’m posting this earlier in the week).


Seth Godin upsets direct marketers – by suggesting that if we click ads on sites we like, we can up-end the status quo and marketers are forced to improve conversion rates. I disagree with it – if I’m clicking through with no intent to purchase, then a snazzy landing page or a special offer isn’t going to change my mind. But an interesting thought nevertheless

Age Concern are looking to reclassify the silver surfer with research findings from Equi=media – I agree that 55+ is an impossibly broad target, but then does the same thing not also apply to 16-34s, ABC1s or housewives? However, I do concede that they are an overlooked market, and the study does contain some useful statistics

Nike have admitted asking the Chinese government for details on a blogger who posted what Nike insists are false claims regarding Liu Xiang pulling out of the Olympics – I’m not sure where I stand on this. If it were written in print, Nike would no doubt sue. But anonymity is currently a right of bloggers, and privacy should not be co-opted after the event.

Can the British make money from blogging? The discussion started on Techcrunch UK, and then the BBC picked it up. An interesting debate, at least until the name-calling began

The ten most shameless product placement plugs in cinema (Cracked)

What Facebook’s engagement activity means to brands – as always, an informative summary from Jeremiah Owyang. Personally, I’m not liking the fact that I’m getting brand gifts from people who I’d previously marked as spammers. I assumed that had blocked them from sending me invites and gifts. Unless the price is right, I guess.

Will crowd-funded journalism take off? (NY Times) I think not – there will be too much conflict between editorial independence and proprietor opinion/interference, no matter where the delineations occur

The BBC iPlayer is going to offer series-stacking (press release) – great from a consumer perspective, but it will be interesting to see whether Ofcom has anything to say about it


Pixlr looks like a very good in-browser Photoshopesque image editor

Youtube sunshine – profane comments are replaced with a touch of sunshine

The Orwell Diaries – updated in real-time, 70 years after the original entry

Ubiquity – a new, intelligent, add-on in Firefox that interprets an instruction and takes the appropriate action. A bit like Google Calendar. So, if I typed “Twitter I’m playing with Ubiquity”, the programme would upload that Tweet to the system. Looks incredible.

Recom.me – a Twitter tool that sends you music recommendations based on the artist you Tweet to it


Photos that changed the world – awesome collection of history-defining images (EDIT: Link fixed)

How your printer pretends it is out of ink – and how to get it working again (Slate)

A Freakonomics look at Usain Bolt and other sports records, and how they relate to a normal distribution curve. The title says it all – Usain Bolt isn’t normal

A fantastic graphic showing athletics world records over time (NY Times) – you can see that there was also a brief period in the 1960s where the average speed of the 200m record was quicker than that of the 100m record

An interactive map of history’s great journeys (Good Magazine)

This week my double recommendations go to What Facebook’s engagement activity means to brands, Pixlr, Photos that changed the world, Ubiquity and A fantastic graphic showing athletics world records over time