For DM, 2012 needs to about creativity

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The economic environment that marketers are currently operating in means the spotlight on return on investment is brighter than at any time in living memory.

The gloomy economic forecasts for 2012 and beyond that dominate headlines on a daily basis only serve to fuel the notion that the immediate future for marketers is about frugality.

This reality, as I have written about before, lends itself very well to direct marketing. The channel’s attributes are about low-cost, accountable campaigns with measurable return on investment.

Music to the ears of finance directors with both eyes permanently on the bottom line. Not to mention an opportunity for direct marketers to stake a claim for long-term inclusion in the marketing mix.

This short-term opportunity, however, could prove to be to the ultimate detriment of the channel if not handled properly. Just like deep discounting by retailers will have a long-term impact on brand equity despite the short term boost to volume sales, DM should not be solely sold as a cheap fix.

In last week’s Marketing Week cover feature, editor Mark Choueke analyses why creativity – the big idea, the intangible concept – should be equal to data, accountability and measurement this year and beyond.

Some of the world’s biggest marketers line up in the piece to talk about why, to quote one of the world’s most lauded creative minded brands, marketers need to “think differently”.

At the risk of appearing ungrateful, the number of emails that I receive every day detailing sales, offers and discounts are at risk of having their impact diluted by sheer volume. The same is often true of physical mail.

On a break from benevolence before Christmas, I paused to indulge by treating myself to an item of clothing purchased at a well-known outdoor chain. At the desk, I was presented with a deal that I gratefully accepted: A 20% discount for my email address. Every day, twice a day since I have been sent variations on the same theme, that I can get money off tents or such like if I but now, and not later.

The company has my email address, a confirmed interest in some of items that it sells but instead of thinking creatively and seeking to engage with me in a meaningful way, it achieving nothing more than irking me.

Direct marketing can offer all that is demanded by companies in challenging economic environments. What it also needs to do is demonstrate that it can be as creative and live beyond the short-term interest in its cost efficiencies.

If you think you can demonstrate creative thinking and ROI, make sure you enter the Marketing Week Engage Awards 2012. If you have produced a DM campaign that is creative and has delivered enviable returns then be sure to enter.

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