According to organizers, nearly 10,000 people attended the DMA 2010 conference in San Francisco. Direct marketing (DM) titans such as Howard Draft (of Draftfcb) and Rance Crain (of Ad Age) were inducted into the DMA Hall of Fame for their pioneering work. None other than Lester Wunderman (widely regarded as the inventor of modern-day direct marketing) introduced Draft and Crain to the audience.
The conference reinforced the association’s relevance in a changing marketing paradigm. Direct marketing started at a time when mass advertising was king. To this day, most big-brand marketers continue to regard DM as a “below-the-line” marketing expense. However, it is more widely used than most people realize. Apart from e-mail and paper mail campaigns, there is a proliferation of marketing strategies that continue to employ the foundations of direct marketing. Marketers always strive to locate the coordinates of the 4-D marketing axes—audience, message, time, and place. DM definitely brings marketers closer to pinpointing those coordinates. Here are a few tactics that can be classified as DM:
Web personalization—The World Wide Web was founded on the belief that a global information system could be home based. Web personalization enables marketers to communicate with an individual on the customer’s terms. DMA 2010 attracted a few vendors working on the innovative front in this realm. I met with the founder of Optini (a provider of Web personalization marketing), who works with clients to create customized browser add-ons that can revolutionize the Web experience. Optini’s solution tailors the brand experience for customers via targeted display and search placements not just on the company.com but across every major Web property launched from that particular computer and browser.
Mobile marketing—While smart phones and apps have generated a lot of buzz since the mid-2000s, only 1 of 4 mobile users has a smart phone today. So, apps and mobile sites cannot be accessed by the remainder of the mobile audience. Text/SMS marketing continues to be the mobile marketer’s best friend. Peter Johnson from MMA (Mobile Marketing Association) presented a SMS marketing campaign case study by Jiffy Lube that increased new-to-brand opt-in leads by 50% and produced larger-than-previous conversion rates.
Search marketing—Keyword searches and content overload provide the direct marketer with a rich insight into the customer’s educational needs, product wants, and decision triggers. Companies such as Google and Amazon have pioneered the personalization approach and make recommendations on content and product based on usage and consumption patterns.
Social media—Unlike the digital tactics described above, social media marketing is where customers prefer to converse about the brand with other customers, and not the sellers. Approximately 160 million unique visitors in the United States spend much of their time (more than 5 hours per unique visitor) on social media, according to Nielsen. Ad Age predicts that by 2013, social media marketing allocation will grow over 4-fold, to about $5 billion. Many marketers in the pharma/healthcare spaces are still unsure of how to use this medium to converse with patients and physicians. At the very least, the social media happen to be the ideal place to listen to what your customers think about you.
The proliferation in new marketing techniques has multiplied advertisers’ choices, and advertisers will have to make tough decisions because of increased marketing accountability. From DM’s earliest days, measurement has been the driver of its methodology, and success or failure could easily be demonstrated with the correct accountability plan. With digital being a highly measurable medium, media buying decisions can now be made on an engagement basis (cost per click/conversion/download), as opposed to the classic reach-and-frequency model. It’s no surprise, then, that digital marketing would be direct.
As an advertiser once said, “I know half my advertising dollars are wasted; I just don’t know which half.” Which half will your marketing activity be part of when that tough decision is made?
Abel Rajan, MS
Director of Strategy and Analytics, Strategic Services