Name of the game remains response rate

The challenges facing the direct marketing industry range from what to name the sector to the impact of social media. Five specialists discuss the hot issues

Marketing Week (MW)/ Robert Keitch of the DMA suggests that direct marketing (DM) should change its name to “action-oriented marketing” to better reflect the scope of the genre. Do you agree or not?

Derek Holder (DH): Action-oriented marketing, scientific marketing and dialogue marketing were really names bandied around in the Eighties and dismissed even then as less meaningful than direct marketing.

The vision is more important than the definition. A vision is emerging of a new type of marketing, which is capable of engaging millions of customers and prospects – one-to-one. For the first time, marketers can engage millions of customers and prospects in personal, real-time dialogue, which is fully accountable and measurable. Now that’s interesting.

Until someone comes up with something that says “what’s on the tin” in a contemporary way, this name business is all just posturing.

Carol Wright (CW): I agree. DM is an expression that has been around for years and does exactly what it says on the tin. You are communicating directly with your target audience, no matter what medium you choose.

Pete Markey (PM): Action-oriented marketing is simply a description of DM’s purpose, so a change in name seems somewhat superfluous. No doubt this suggestion stems from changing business models, where we are seeing routes to purchase muddied by complex and fragmented journeys. However, as long as a communication continues to drive an individual to “do” something in a measurable way rather than “think” something, it’s DM.

Andy Grant (AG): I don’t think a name change is necessary. There is no concrete evidence that a name change would make any difference. If the DMA went about changing its name every time there was a new trend or focus then no one would give it the respect or time it deserves. Madonna has gone through several reinventions over the past 25 years but she has always stayed Madonna. If it works for her, it can work for DM.

Pete Markey
Pete Markey Marketing director for insurer MoreThan and is The Marketing Society’s “Marketer of the Year” 2009.

Marc Michaels (MM): There is some merit in Robert’s suggestion as direct methods are about creating that all-important action that will lead to sales or behaviour change. However, not all DM is entirely action-orientated. Some of it is receptive, such as inbound contact centres, and some is about developing relationships over time rather than the quick sale.
It might be better to restate direct marketing as an all-embracing philosophy of approach that covers digital (email, banners and search), customer touchpoints (including phone and face to face) and the more “traditional” channels of door drops, inserts and direct mail. Perhaps DM could stand for direct marketing and not direct mail as some people still think.

MW: How do you think volunteered personal information (VPI) can help change the world of direct marketing?

PM: I’m a massive fan of any way in which we can become more relevant and more personal in our marketing. There are two streams to VPI – directly and indirectly volunteered personal information. We’re developing strategies for both.

Our direct VPI strategy is well established and we’ve been using data volunteered by individuals from sources as diverse as lifestyle surveys to aggregator sites and even information gathered by our personal customer managers. To ask the public to open up their needs, desires and feelings to your brand requires a great deal of trust, which is why MoreThan is continuing to invest in its brand and reputation.


Angus Morrison
Head of MMC Strategy

Should DM change its name? Focusing on this proposed new title of “action-oriented marketing” ignores the potential for really innovative pieces of communication that don’t have an overt call to action. There is some brilliant DM activity going on right now, and instead of changing our name, we should be proudly shouting about what DM can do, not introducing yet another marketing acronym.

In terms of VPI, it could certainly aid segmentation and targeting for any given campaign – meaning more effective, efficient marketing with improved relevancy. But the key will be producing a compelling reason for customers to volunteer information about themselves in the first place. Assuming they are engaged in such a way that they are willing to do it, then VPI becomes an incredibly exciting tool.

Royal Mail research telling us that consumers prefer to be contacted through a two-pronged mail and email approach indicates that consumers do not live their life in one channel, so the key focus should be delivering the right message, at the right time, to the right consumer via the right channel.

Research from Quadrangle (available on also shows that consumers value direct mail and email for very different reasons. In this sense, the channels are totally complementary.

Social media is already part of DM. What social media does provide is a great opportunity to find out more about consumers, and engage with them in ways that are most likely to strike a chord with them. One of DM’s traditional strengths is the collection and use of data, and these skills will be vital as social media becomes more and more a fact of life.


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