DM needs to re-establish its credentials

Hello, welcome back to Marketing Week’s Direct Marketing bulletin, we hope you enjoyed the bank holidays. We’re delighted to resume normal service.

In the run up to the Easter break the quarterly Bellwether report may have slipped past DM practitioners. As expected, the Bellwether contained both good and bad news – total marketing budgets were trimmed for a second successive quarter – but budgets for 2011 have been set higher than actual spend in 2010 on average.

However, when broken down by discipline there seem further storm clouds for those working in DM departments. While investment in traditional media has been regularly cut, DM has so far seemed pretty resilient, according to past Bellwethers. But the past quarter saw DM marketing budgets revised down – the first time in six quarters.

Why would this be? DM has always held up well to scrutiny as a marketing tool due to measurability, targeting and effectiveness. There’s an argument that marketing chiefs are diverting budget into online, which continues to grow. But if true, this was not reflected in the past six quarters of Bellwether when rate of growth for online budgets was steeper.

It certainly looks like DM departments may have to work harder to get their mojo back. There’s plenty of ammunition to demonstrate the effectiveness and cut through of DM to department heads – but maybe more important at this juncture is the evidence that DM works well in integrated campaigns in tandem with other channels.

The DMA has studies of how direct mail can work hand in hand with online activity to great effect. Research last year showed a 62% ROI for digital campaign incorporating direct mail (OMD BrandScience 2009), while 60% of a poll said offline marketing is likely to get them to visit a new site (Pitney Bowes 2009). These figures are now dated but the DMA’s latest Insert Council research, looking at the relationship between print media inserts and the internet, is due by the end of the month.

For a quick reminder of inspirational DM campaigns it’s worth checking out the shortlist for Marketing Week’s Engage Awards. Brands such as Iceland, Land Rover, Orange and Scottish Power have all successfully used DM in the past year. The winner will be revealed on May 24 at the awards and we’ll take a closer look at the concept, execution and performance of the triumphant entry afterwards.

There are strong fact-led reasons for championing DM. Let’s hope the next Bellwether reflects the strengths inherent in the channel.

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