DMNews chats with TPN's Bobbi Merkle

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Q: What market factors led TPN to create a convergence unit?

A: We've heard people talking about taking marketing to the next level and making it fully integrated for years.

My experience has taught me that consumers consume from their own point of view. This means that the brand is the brand and the experience is the experience.

Also, we think the purchase decision starts far outside a retailer; rather, it starts when a consumer feels good about something. Whoever touches the consumer's experience needs to contribute to the experience. In order to do that, agencies have to step back with their clients and look at how consumers consume their products so that they're not only delivering a promotional or consumer-oriented experience but also a brand experience.

Q: What challenges do retailers face today when they are communicating with consumers?

A: All the Black Friday ads that slipped out before Thanksgiving are a good indication that consumers want information on their own terms. They want to be a part of the party. The challenge is figuring out how to include them in the experience. Retail, shopping, eating, banking — these are entertainment now to consumers.

Q: What is direct marketing's role in providing consumers what they want?

A: The way that agencies and retailers are going to succeed is by bringing the consumer into our equation in a true sense. Direct marketing has expanded over the years from something you drop in the mail to a wide range of tactics that have ratcheted it up to an overarching concept.

Often consumers have heard about something through word of mouth. Direct marketing is as close to word of mouth as you can get because you are literally communicating directly with consumers in unique ways. The idea of communicating to consumers on a more direct basis is important, because when people get excited, they start blogging and you start seeing numbers that are astronomical. Also, if you can directly connect with the consumer, you can have a huge influence on their purchasing decision.

Just as importantly, we all need to stay on top of what the consumer's newest method is for communicating and gathering information. Consumers love to receive communications based on their personal wants and needs, and one-on-one is preferred. Clearly, that is what direct means. Direct has always been on the cutting edge of this type of communication and it will continue to have the ability to deliver it better than other methods.

Q: Campaigns with multiple touch points are very popular right now.
Why is that?

A: We look for what other touch points we can use to include the consumer, the retailer and the sales that will engage, possibly educate and entertain. This really creates action on the part of the consumer and eventually begins building towards consideration and then a transaction.


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