Marketing, driving lessons from DMI Co-op

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I drove to Last week's Direct Media Client Conference and Co-op conference in White Plains from my apartment in Brooklyn. I had printed out directions the night before, checked the route on a map, and I thought I was ready. Five blocks from my house, I missed a street sign and a simple right turn and ended up having to break the world land speed record to make it to the opening session on time.
Trying to get back home, I ditched my carefully researched directions, asked the doorman how he would get to the BQE, and decided to wing it from there.
Why did I just tell you a story about my driving incompetence? Because it perfectly high-lights some of the main lessons of the conference's "How to Beat Your Control" session on circ marketing.
Paul Goldberg of PJ Promotions and Caroline Zimmerman of The Zimmerman Agency led the session, with interactive portions and a bevy of helpful tips. A selection from their top ten (and how they can be applied to other life decisions, like driving):
1) Don't be a control freak: don't have your mind made up in advance, and be open to new ideas. When it comes to controls in circ marketing, this means you have to be willing to give up that bright purple envelope or that funny tagline if it ends up looking horrible or not meshing with the rest of the package. Sure, you may have dreamed of it for weeks, but if it doesn't work, it just doesn't.
In the case of my driving, this means that, even when your directions say to take a right, if the right turn leads you into the bowels of Brooklyn instead of to the BQE, you have to give up the ghost and pull an illegal U-turn, even if it means going against the map you vowed to follow.
2) Double your chances for a winner: Always test two envelopes for every new package; make sure they are different concepts. Pretty straightforward for marketing. The driving parallel: trust your car-owning friend when he says there is a completely different way to reach the BQE; print both a map and written directions; try a different way home.
3) Put your package on a diet: Analyze the weak points of your package. Do LESS of it. For a marketer, this can mean anything, from nixing a size or color that is simply not going over well, to re-wording or cutting an unclear offer. For me, this means ditching the back road "shortcuts" that get you lost over and over again. It may also mean ditching a certain online mapping tool, or maybe it means I just shouldn't drive anywhere. Ever.
Other tips for beating your control that I couldn't think of a driving parallel for:
4) DO be a control freak: Know what you want and why.
5) Open the vault and back up the truck: Dish out old controls, new controls, past losers, etc. Don't hold back on anything that might be important.
6) Build a better offer at no extra cost: Ask your creative team for ideas.
7) Put your package on steroids: Identify the "it" that drives the control. Do MORE of it.
8) Look for buried treasure: Look for the undeveloped pearl of an idea in your control, and build creative around it.
9) Save swipe -- it's better than a college degree: Save more than competitive samples; save good mail.
10) Use the sledgehammer technique and go for broke: The big wins come from taking big chances. Identify a daring concept that doesn't dominate the current control.
And a bonus from Goldberg, "'Free' is still the strongest word in the English language when it comes to DM." Now if only they would apply that concept to gas prices.

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