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Where Else Should I Mail?

Date: August, 2010 --

How about Belgium? Belgium has some unique characteristics, not the least of which being its discomfort as a single nation. It was a bit of an artificial construct in the mid-1800’s, having been the result of a revolution by the French-speaking army and intellectuals against the Dutch king. Thus it was cobbled together from what could be parts of France, Netherlands, and Germany, respectively. The northern part of the country is decidedly Dutch or Flemish speaking, the south is French speaking, and bits of the East speak the third official language, German. 

On the linguistic border of Dutch and French sits the capital of Brussels, home to the royal family who was recruited to the post in the 1830’s from Saxe-Coburg. It is also home to the European Commission (EC), which is about as close to a central European government as the rest of the continent will tolerate, and English is widely spoken there. 

Belgium is a good target country for cross-border direct marketing, including direct mail. Its economic situation is in some respects better than the US. Homeownership is higher, with 71% of the population living in their own residences. With a population of 10.7 million and an average household income equal to that of France or The Netherlands, there is significant disposable income. This is especially true in Brussels where the EC’s work force plays a substantial economic role. 

Almost all of the Belgian population is urban, 97% in 2004. This makes for a population density of 342 per square kilometer, 886 per square mile, one of the highest in Europe and makes postal routes very efficient. 

The Belgian Post has good resources for marketers, and its support site, has loads of marketing resources. Most are in Dutch or French, but Google takes care of that. 

Unlike any other Post in the world that we know of, this one isn’t afraid to provide real people with whom to interact. The really good news is that they are all DM experts that can be contacted through the Expert Center on the Belgian Post website. They are all world-class, the likes of Erik van Vooren, Patrick Collister, Dirk Oosterlink, and Valerie Godin. 

Most exciting is the substantial library of direct marketing samples from all forms of media, but obviously a lot of direct mail. Many are competition winners from Cannes, the Belgian DMA and other events. Browse through The Expert Center for both useful tips on direct marketing in the Belgian context, and great creative work. 

Naturally, the site has postal information – rates, services, contact points, and a good recent survey of direct mail. Some data:

  • Direct mail spend in 2009 was up 1.2% over 2008 to Euros 349.1 million.
  • Point of sale (retail) and direct mail account for a 29.5% and 28.2% of spend, finance less than 10%. (This is why the Belgian Post isn’t suffering like the USPS.)
  • The growth sectors in mailing in 2009 were personal care (+32%), energy (utilities)(+23%) and mobile providers (+22%).

Finally, and importantly, the address system in Belgium is robust and well-maintained, so Data Services’ International Address Hygiene services can make sure your mail and parcels will get to the right place.