Should’ve Gone to Specsavers

Marketers at Specsavers may need a taste of their own medicine after publishing an embarrassing blunder in a recent marketing campaign.

A leaflet handed out in the highlands last month boasts a visit from the popular eye-care chain to the “Isles of Brora and Wick”, which are actually two small coastal towns in the north of Scotland.

The campaign has left local residents outraged – and rightly so – with many comparing it to the on-going issue of companies enforcing extra surcharges to deliver to the area, wrongly believing that Caithness is an island.

Specsavers’s red-faced boss Jim Quinn commented, “The sharp-eyed locals who spotted this error clearly won’t be needing an appointment. Our copywriters obviously should’ve gone to Specsavers.”

No Man’s Land

The problem actually lies in the postcode itself. Although the KW postcode includes all of the Orkney Islands and is named after their largest town – Kirkwall, it also includes 14 districts that are on the mainland of Scotland. This is the reason why shoppers have such a problem with their post and online delivery – no one considers it to be mainland UK.

Specsavers are certainly not the only company to make this mistake, and nor will they be the last. Consumers of Caithness are constantly being ripped off with unfair delivery prices because of their KW postcodes. The charges imposed by internet and other remote traders for delivery to the Highlands has been widely recognised as a cause of significant concern with some companies even refusing to deliver to isolated locations at all.

Royal Mail has to provide a UK-wide postal service at an affordable flat rate. But private couriers are not bound by the same obligations, and it is not uncommon for companies to levy an additional charge for the Highlands.

The Caithness Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has backed calls from watchdog Consumer Focus Scotland (CFS) for companies to offer the same delivery charge to rural locations, including the far north, as the rest of the country.

What a Spectacle

This geographical faux-pas has ruffled a few feathers not just in Caithness but across the whole of the Highlands and is obviously something companies need to be doing more to address.

This issue illustrates the importance of data quality and ensuring you’re using the right data for the job. For most postcode areas in the UK, this wouldn’t be an issue, but perhaps in this situation just looking at a postcode’s first two digits isn’t the best way of targeting marketing. The Royal Mail PAF data (where all postcodes are maintained) is great for addressing, but postcode areas have no inherent geographical aspect that’d help in this situation. A more prudent way to assign delivery charges would be to use a where’s my nearest lookup to find the nearest depot, and calculate delivery costs based upon the distance between the points. For areas like the KW postcode area, the Royal Mails PAF data contains all the information you need to use, if an address doesn’t mention it being an island, then don’t make any assumptions!

It’s easy to see how Specsavers came unstuck, but with data readily available at the touch of a button, it shows a gross misunderstanding and ignorance of Scotland’s geography.