Direct Mail on Rise in Finland

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HELSINKI - Direct mail accounts for 22 percent of all Finnish promotional and advertising spending, making it the second most popular marketing method in the country. Ads in Finland's 100 newspapers take top ranking.


Last year addressed mail rose 8.4 percent to 495 million pieces. Unaddressed mail was up 2.3 percent to a total of 1.12 billion. DM services account for 10 percent of Finland Post's total turnover - 600 million Finnish marks, (about $120 million.)


Finland Post also offers special rates for bulk mail shippers and other discounts based on mailing frequency and annual volume. Bulk mail is delivered within three days.


There is still plenty of room in the nation's private and business mail boxes, however. A recent survey of 4,522 key business decision makers found that 30 percent of firms queried received only 1-2 pieces of direct mail a day.


More than half the employees who received direct mail at work "generally read all of it," while another 30 percent read parts of the mailings and tossed the rest. Another 8 percent read some of it and circulated it. Only 5 percent, the survey found, did not read direct mail at all.


Some 32 percent of consumer respondents in the survey reported that they "generally read all" the direct mail they received, while only 17 percent read unaddressed mail.


BTB mailings are used to sell the following products and services in order of popularity: professional training, telephones, office equipment, hotels, travel agencies, cars and language courses.


Addressed consumer mail focused on subscription offers, financial services from banks and insurance companies, automotive equipment, book clubs and cosmetics.


Most unaddressed mail was sent out by local retailers, supermarkets, hardware, furniture and household appliance stores.


Finland has few large consumer lists, Sakari Virtanen, president of he Finnish DMA (FDMA) reported. "Mail order houses do not usually sell or rent lists, although they might exchange them on some occasions." Lists, he warned, are expensive because they are so scarce.


"My advice is to use only Finnish-based lists in Finland. This is because such a difficult language can cause problems in accuracy for non-native speakers. It is also safer in data protection matters," he added.


On the plus side, government-maintained lists are available to direct marketers. The Tieto Corporation provides both the Central Population Register and the Central Vehicle Register; both are a rich data lode.


While telemarketing has not yet begun to challenge direct mail's predominance in Finland's DM industry, it has shown robust growth in recent years, especially in marketing books and magazines and in soliciting charitable donations.


Telephone penetration in Finland is almost 100 percent and more than half the population own cellular phones.


"According to one of our studies, everyone has been offered something over the telephone and most people accept telephone usage in commercial communications," Virtanen said.


Commercial use of the Internet is growing, not surprising in a country that leads the world on a per capita online basis.


"It is still more a `new media' than a significant sales channel. But mail order companies and book clubs all expect to increase sales through the Internet," Virtanen said.


Privacy is not as much of an issue in Finland as it is in other EU member states wrestling with integration of the EU's data protection directive into national law.


The Finns have had privacy legislation in place since 1987 that will not take much updating to conform to the EU directive. It has had a Mail Preference Service (MPS) for 15 years and a Telephone Preference Service (TPS) since 1994.


The Finnish DMA is currently considering the launch of a fax and e-mail preference service.


Only 0.8 percent of Finland's 5.1 million people have had their names inscribed on the Robinson list (another name for MPS) while 1.3 percent of all households have declined to receive direct mail.


The total for unaddressed mail is higher, with 3 percent of households having stickers on their mailboxes banning delivery of unaddressed mail. So far, 1 percent of the population has signed up for TPS.


Strong consumer protection legislation has forced adoption of privacy as "a normal part of business ethics," Virtanen said, and warned that consumer protection laws are strictly enforced.
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