08 The Year Ahead – Direct marketing

Even in an industry thats drowning in jargon, integration ranks highly as a misused campaign tag. Marketers who really want their work to have the desired impact should really concentrate on unity and direct marketing. By Matt Kitcherside, Gyro London

Direct marketing is the lifeblood of ‘integration’

Even in an industry that’s drowning in jargon, ‘integration’ ranks highly as a misused campaign tag. Marketers who really want their work to have the desired impact should really concentrate on ‘unity’ and ‘direct marketing’. By Matt Kitcherside, Gyro London

Over recent years many words have become over-used, abused and misunderstood in the world of marketing. “Solutions”, for example, often solve nothing. Issues are dealt with “offline”. What, as opposed to “online”? And marketing campaigns are meant to be “integrated”, when in fact they are just amalgamated. 

Too many marketers just think integrated means using many channels, or taking a successful outdoor ad campaign and running it online with an apologetic web page at the end for those who can be bothered to visit. If we look at what the word really means we can start to understand how to apply this to our marketing communications challenges: “To make into a whole by bringing all parts together; unify.” 

“Unify” is a far better description of what an integrated idea or campaign should achieve: one single theme that can resonate throughout a campaign and every experience a customer has with it. The trouble is that the creative process often begins with a great idea for an ad or a piece of DM because that is how we are used to thinking. It is more productive to develop an idea free of media channels to test its relevance first before applying it to the right media for the target customers. 

We all recognise that consumers aren’t waiting to be marketed to anymore. They are doing their own investigative work on the brands and marketing campaigns they want to respond to and many are more likely to base a purchase decision on what their Facebook friends say, than the TV ad they saw last night. Actually, they probably skipped the ads using Sky +. 

By its very definition it is direct marketing that has the biggest opportunity to directly influence the customer and it must therefore be at the heart of any successful integrated marketing campaign. It has the ability to stop someone in their tracks whether through print media, online or, increasingly, through word of mouth and viral channels. And the brands that use it most successfully are able to deliver a strong, consistent message throughout a campaign and throughout the experience a customer has with a brand, to the point at which they feel the experience is personal just to them. 

Mini did this a couple of years ago when they
launched the latest Cooper model, with still the most personalised and clever viral campaign I’ve seen to date. A cockney geezer calling me by name and asking to “‘ave a word”. He tells me about my widening waistline, my thinning hair and my life under the thumb (he’s right) and all because a friend has answered some simple questions about me – ingenious. Despite the insults I feel engaged and the car is made appealing to a mid-thirties urban male like me. That attention to detail is followed through in the showroom and in the test drive. It is a BMW after all. 

This campaign will have reached hundreds of thousands of people but I bet not one of them felt like a target audience – every one of them would have had their own personal experience with a simple, but still integrated campaign, that was bang on brief and bang on message. 

Bringing the creative teams together
So how can brands achieve these kind of results. They will normally be reliant on their agencies to deliver the ideas and creativity for a successful integrated campaign – easier with one incumbent integrated agency, much harder in the multi-agency environment most operate in. The key to success if to be inclusive and unify (there’s that word again) the relevant teams involved, be they internal or external. Too often briefs are delivered in a siloed way and the results are destined to be, guess what, siloed. 

Clients who are able to deliver a simple, single brief, which can be interpreted consistently by all the agencies, will deliver the best results. They should encourage agencies to share their thoughts to ensure the big idea is retained across all media and all channels. This doesn’t come naturally to some agencies but you will reap the benefits if you can get them to work that way. 

Often it will be the direct marketing agency that can really take the bull by the horns and develop a creative idea that works online, offline, above, below and through the line. In fact forget the line, there is no line. There is only integrated. And the lifeblood of a truly integrated marketing campaign should always be powerful, personalised direct marketing. 

Matt Kitcherside, General Manager, Gyro London

Back to being in the black

Reliance on credit was direct marketing’s driving force. Now the focus has changed to customer retention. By David Reed

To have a hangover, you must first have a party. As 2008 dawns, the direct marketing industry ought by rights to be reaching for the Alka-Seltzer. After all, the last ten years of its growth have been fuelled almost entirely by the explosion in consumer credit.

Nearly one-third of all DM activity has been driven by financial services providers. But the credit crunch, weakening housing markets and a slowdown in consumer spending should be viewed with concern by all involved. Except for those who remember what DM is really all about. “Consumers will change their habits. Our view is that, over the last few years, they have been credit hungry. We and they will now turn our focus back to our core with a return to savings and acting responsibly,” says Debbie Britten, head of customer marketing at Norwich and Peterborough Building Society.

In planning for the next year, Britten’s company has identified that it has real strength in its customer relationships. “There is an opportunity for building societies like us to talk about what we are all about,” she says. NPBS will focus on its customer base, rather than new customer acquisition. 

This focus will include direct mail, which Britten argues is welcomed by customers when it forms part of customer relationship management and reflects what the company knows about them, and digital channels will also be central. “E-mail is not different for us. Where we have permission to send it, those customers want to hear about our products and services,” she says. For companies like NPBS, which have a strong bond with their customers, this should help ease the other crunch many are expecting during 2008 – a data squeeze. 

Data controllers
While making a mess of the economy by its poor handling of the Northern Rock affair, the Government has also managed to destroy consumer trust in data controllers. People may have no choice about giving their personal details to public sector organisations, but they can exercise more caution when asked to provide them to commercial companies. 

As Britten notes: “There has been a loss of confidence – if the Government can lose data, so could anybody.” Marketing the virtues of datasecurity and being more upfront in privacy statements are likely to emerge as key strategies next year, particularly among financial services providers. If a brand owner has a culture which readily supports such claims, so much the better. 

Developments are also likely in terms of the data which the DM uses for marketing management. “There is an opportunity for proprietary research tools that will identify the new cross-channel behaviour of consumers,” says Marco Scognamiglio, group chief executive of WWAV Rapp Collins. 

DM has always been good at tracking what it does, but usually within a single channel or campaign. The range and blend of media in use has become so complex, however, that existing analytical tools are not soph isticated enough. “As individuals, we live in a more complex world, from convergence of media with technology to ‘headroom space’ – the amount of in formation we get and the fight for that share of mind. It is a complicated environ ment,” says Scognamiglio.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the realm of social networks which he claims to be legitimate DM channels and of which he also takes a broad definition. “The big mistake is when people think social networking is just online communities. That is just one place where you can let people know what you think. There are other opportunities, such as the rugby club on a Saturday night,” he says. 

Scognamiglio prefers the term “word of mouth marketing” and believes it represents a brave new frontier for direct marketers to conquer next year. DM agencies like WWAV will need to demonstrate their customer focus, rather than channel bias. That means more insight from data, both personal and metrical. 

Environmental kitemark
A major “green” initiative will be unveiled during 2008 with the DMA-led publicly available specification (PAS) for environmentally-friendly direct marketing, in development with the British Standards Institute. The process, cofunded by Acxiom, Royal Mail, ISBA and Telephone Preference Service, should see a new kitemark become available next year for companies that meet the requirements of the PAS. “We need a change of values,” says Robert Keitch, director of media channel development at the DMA, who is overseeing the project. 

“There are two sides to the coin – inputs and outputs. Going in, we need to recognise that the use of non renewable resources is a problem. With output, we need to do more about waste materials and encourage companies and consumers to recycle and re-use them,” he says. 

Credit, customer permission and climate change are big challenges. But what DM does at its best is use insight to drive business solutions. Time for the industry to go to rehab? No, no, no.

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