It’s good to talk

Mark Thomson, media director, Royal Mail, discusses how direct marketers can create and be part of the conversation with consumers.

Mark Thomson
Mark Thomson

We all remember being taught the rules of conversation as kids – but how many of us as marketers practise what was preached in those formative years?

The maxims of talking to our family and friends should in theory translate easily into the formal conversations of business life. Yet it’s amazing how often campaigns ignore the chance to build a two-way dialogue, rather than just foisting a brand message upon the consumer.

What people want now is a commitment from brands to include them in the conversation regarding what they like and dislike about the product – without making clumsy introductions, of course. Ignore these lines of communication, and your brand risks getting quickly shunned by the likes of Twitter and Facebook users. Research has shown that more and more people research or buy brands because of online peer-to-peer recommendation. So, doesn’t it make sense to be part of these conversations rather than let them rumble on unfettered?

Direct marketers are of course in the perfect position to develop dialogues which, at their most successful, will promote loyalty and build lifetime value. By their very nature, direct channels allow narrowcasting of messages to be targeted to reach the right person, at the right time. Royal Mail conducted some consumer research into attitudes towards multichannel marketing, and more than 55% of people said they preferred to be contacted through a two-pronged mail and email approach.

Marketers and creatives planning direct campaigns would also do well to check out recent brand initiatives that have engaged their target audience in this way for inspiration. Walkers’ ’Do Us A Flavour’ Campaign, where the public was asked to design and ultimately vote for a new crisp flavour, is a standout example. The campaign resulted in more than a million public votes and Walkers claimed an uplift in impulse sales of more than £2m during the period.

There are also some decent examples of this in action in the DM arena. The Government’s major anti-obesity drive, Change4Life, has used direct mailpacks to underpin its television advertising campaign and bring the initiative to life. EHS Brann rolled out a partwork programme to engage families in healthy eating and exercise, and respond with their own ideas by email. With more than 30,000 responses, it’s a perfect example of combining media to create conversations.

Another example is the Matterbox, launched by Matter Media Ltd. The letterbox-sized package contains brand representations to engage a carefully targeted audience. Subscribers not only receive the box as an innovative piece of direct mail, they also have regular email communication from Matter and are encouraged to log their preferences online about what they would like to see in the next box.

So applying the rules of listening, learning, responding and listening again to create harmonious relationships can be as effective in the marketing world as it is in real life. Dialogue, conversation, chat; call it what you will, every brand should be making the effort to talk with their target market, and combining channels to do so is often the way forward.

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