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22.4.06

Turning direct marketing on its head 

My colleague Alan Mitchell, whom I encountered through being a member of the Medinge Group, has a post on his blog about the fallacies under which operates. His idea is that harvesting data behind ’ backs is not the answer in the 21st century, when citizens are concerned about (behind crime and education in ranking terms). At the core of Alan’s principles is —trusting consumers enough so they will volunteer information, when they see fit.
   Thanks to Chris Lawer for reminding me of Alan’s post.
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Alan Mitchell’s post is right on so many levels. But it ignores a major problem at the heart of direct marketing. Direct marketers don’t give a shit about individual people’s concerns — or even collective people’s concerns. The basic tactic (at least in the U.S.) is to drop a message on a mass amount of people; and if even 1 percent responds, it’s usually considered a tremendous victory. In other words, direct marketers are completely happy if 99 percent of the audience ignores, rejects or absolutely hates the message. Direct marketers are not interested in gaining trust and asking consumers to volunteer information; rather, they’re seeking to make a sale by interrupting and disrupting people’s sensibilities. In direct marketing, people are not people. They are numbers.

Of course, most direct marketers will probably dispute my rants.  
Sounds totally right to me, Highjive, based on what I know of DM. And I look at all these loyalty programmes as well. There is a major one here, FlyBuys, owned by Shell, which I refuse to join. Why? I can’t be bothered with all the crap they may or may not send me—just the mere fact it has dozens of “partners” actually puts me off.
   I’m in the minority as there are Kiwis who love FlyBuys, but I would say I am in a growing minority who is concerned about how my private information is being used. Letting an oil company know the sum of my spending habits is not a good thing.  
YO! Highjive!
All marketers are trying to make a sale by disrupting peoples normal patterns of behavior. Ask Jack, I'd say he is very focused on convincing people to grap a Lucire instead of a Vogue. Hugh McLeod, a veritble permission marketing guru, is all about disruption. Disruption is waht turns the world around mate.

You are right, no direct marketers care if you hate their message, they paid to take it to you in a country where free speech is still pretty legal, expecting that some people wont respond to it. You can either get upset, or, you can be a "thanks but no thanks" kinda guy.

I think the bigger issue here is protecting your personal information. There are more insidious things that happen thorugh data mining than getting a little bit of targeted junk mail.


and a PS

I refuse to trust a company that makes "build trust with our consumers" an bullet list item. Being trustworthy should be part of the culture and a trait considered when hiring, not part of the business model.  
Nice being compared to Hugh, Dan. Also, with Vogue—did you know my birthday is the same as Condé Nast’s day of passing? I always thought that was weird, and I didn’t know that till after Lucire went to print.
   Anyway, back on topic: yes, disruption is the name of the game. I never thought of it in those terms till I read it in blogs—till then, it was about creating affinity with consumers. Both are still valid but I like getting my head around the disruption concept.
   I suspect Highjive might have meant disruption from a negative point of view, more in terms of upsetting people, rather than the marketing-as-disruption (as applied to consumer behaviour) that you mean, which doesn’t involve pissing people off. At least that was how I read it.
   As to your postscript, I totally agree. Such an item is about as meaningful as mission statements which tell us they are there to ‘exceed customers’ expectations while maximizing returns to stakeholders’, whatever the hell that means!  
Hey, Dan.

Jack’s right in his read on my original remarks. I did mean disruption in a negative sense, where the message maker doesn’t care about the receiver — including not caring about the receivers’ privacy. I did not mean disruption in the way that folks like Hugh McLeod and Jean-Marie Dru have defined it.

In my years in the business (mostly spent in the U.S. advertising business), I’ve rarely seen a brief that did not include “building trust” as a bullet list item. Nearly every marketer seeks to build trust, even if they don’t really have a shared definition of what trust means. Maybe that topic requires a new post/discussion.

But I liked this statement from you:

“I think the bigger issue here is protecting your personal information. There are more insidious things that happen through data mining than getting a little bit of targeted junk mail.”

Completely agree with you here. There are more insidious things that happen, even on the general advertising side versus only direct marketing. But who is going to stop or regulate the data mining?  
Spot on Jack.

If people do get pissed off at the junkmail, its only the junkmail they dont use. Everyone uses the pizza vouchers at some point without complaint.
Its not like you are ever forced to buy anyhting via DM? So why get pissed off at all?

So you can tirade in peoples blog comments and around the watercooler!

Data-mining + privacy issues dont scare me becaue of the junk mail i might get, it scares me because of things like regional price fixing. Now thats evil.

Condé Nast's birthday eh? Now I know when to send you a card.

I share my birthday with Adolf Hitler. I hope that never has any future relevence. I turned 24 last week actually. Happy birthday to me.  
Right On HighJive!

This kinda data-mining cant be regulatedd, really its just the worst of market research rearing its ugly head. Instead I think the regulation should come by way of privacy laws. Companies should be sued for sharing your personal data without your permission, for whatever reason. The datamining can still exist but imagine if you were aware of every database your name was in and could remove it with a phonecall you were on...  
arrrggghhh typos.  
Interesting thought, Dan. I would hate to think how many databases my details are on. In fact, this is one reason I don’t put Lucire in the phone book, believe it or not. Anyone can Google us and I prefer having control that way.
   It’s Condé Nast’s death day, actually—September 19, 1942. I was born exactly 30 years afterward. Creepy considering what I wound up starting.  
Highjive, the approach you mention is absolutely opposite to the approach of the best direct marketers.

I don't know the US market that well, so I'll speak for New Zealand. I do know that in New Zealand the top DM agencies are all about actually being 'direct' - as close to the holy grail of one-to-one marketing as possible.

Because one-to-one is the goal, the needs of the individual are paramount. That includes most importantly privacy and relevance.

The days of "direct marketers [being] completely happy if 99 percent of the audience ignores, rejects or absolutely hates the message" are over, except for a few pond scum companies called spammers. Everyone else is waking up to the vital importance of branding.

Branding and direct marketing are not either/or ... to understand successful marketing in the future, businesses need to understand a thorough integration of these two disciplines. And more than that, they need to genuinely respect the people they exist for - customers, shareholders, employees, partners, etc. etc.  
Simon,

I’m glad to hear the approach I mentioned is absolutely opposite of the best direct marketers.

Sadly, it is the approach of the major U.S. direct marketers, despite anything they might argue to the contrary. I’m mostly talking about the big shops with big accounts. I’d rather not name names, but these guys are global agencies with international clientele.

In the U.S., direct marketing continues to suffer the stigma of being the ugly stepchild. And most of the agencies absolutely deserve the label.  
I like the term "disruption" when used as a reference to direct marketing. All successful advertising, whether branding messages or getting people to make a purchase they had not planned to make today, is the root to advertising in a free market society.

How many times a day are you irritated by the countless television spots and radio spots and other uninvited messages from sponsors?

The one weakness of the Internet is it's low disruption capability. The advertiser has to wait until somebody decides to visit his web site. That is why direct mail is often used to drive people to a given web site.

People will not just walk around in their daily lives searching for your product or services until they know you exist. They have better things to do with their time.

Disruption, as some of you choose to call it, is essential. And the more disruptive, the better. It makes you take notice.

When I write a direct response advertisement or a direct mail package, I do not want the prospect to feel comfortable. I want to disturb them into the realization that they need my product. Otherwise, I have lost the sale.

What do you do if you don't want to get bombarded with silly television advertisements? You change the station or you tune out the message. It's the same with direct marketing.

Out of 100 households viewing any given advertisement, regardless of quality, maybe 2 or 3% really ever hear or understand the message.

So 1% or so is the most any marketer can expect.

Direct marketers not only have to get attention, but they have to elicit a behavior change. And that change is to pick up the phone to buy or fill out a response form and sign a check.

My direct marketing campaigns may only get a 1% response, but many more actually read my message.

They may not buy now for many reasons. Their job has become unstable, they just found out their wife cheated on them, they are dog tired and aren't in a buying mood right now, or they are not convinced they need the product. Whatever the reason, we continue to sell our products because that is what direct marketers do for a living.

But getting people to pay attention is the challenge for ALL marketers. Because in the scheme of things, no one wants to hear what you have to say until you show them that you can satisfy some unmet need.

So this rant about direct marketers, if true, applies to all communicators who must be heard over the many other concerns people have at the moment they hear your message.  
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Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.


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