I'm sure you've noticed: We're caught in a whirlwind of change. Capricious customer demands, new technologies, and added responsibilities swirl around us.
As both a "marketer" and editor I recently found myself doubly blessed. There I was heading a table of some of the smartest and most talented marketers around.
Marketing's relationships with sales and customer service are still essential, but there's a new power couple getting everyone's attention: marketing and IT.
Companies should "listen" to customers—but action is what really matters.
The question isn't how well do you know your customers—it's how well should you know them to meet your goals while best serving them?
In 2012 we asked you what you'd like more or less of in Direct Marketing News, and what issues are important or overplayed. In 2013 we're responding.
For consumers and retailers alike, the holidays can bring as much stress as they bring joy, laughter, and fruit cake.
Every December for more years than I care to admit I've looked back at what happened in the industry and said, "Wow, that was an exciting year."
Marketing today is not for the faint of heart. Find an innovative way to keep those balls in the air and customers are going to be captivated.
What'll happen in Vegas will be so excellent, you won't be able to keep it in Vegas. At the DMA Annual Conference in Las Vegas from Oct. 13 to 18, Direct Marketing News will be hosting three thought-provoking Town Square sessions.
Successful marketing requires customer engagement. And the fastest path to that engagement—assuming the ad copy doesn't include the words free or complimentary—is entertainment.
Data and creative are ultimately complementary. Data alone doesn't drive brand engagement and great creative, if not properly focused, often seems purposeless.
Successful marketing is about continual evolution and flexibility in the face of constantly changing consumer preferences.
Foursquare is a great way for marketers to offer incentives by implementing a discount for check-ins. I'm continuously surprised by the number of brands that don't take advantage of this easy opportunity.
The amount of mobile channels for customers to interact with multichannel retailers has positively exploded in the past year.
Many marketers have suggested print specifically is dead or dying, but I don't buy it.
Where are your customers is a provocative question and one many marketers no doubt are asking of themselves. It's more complicated to answer this question when customers have such a wide array of choice and the megaphone of social media through which to communicate with peers and the wider world, yet marketers have to find ways to meet customer demand for highly relevant communications.
As we turn the page on the calendar, put away the garland and box up the pre-lit tree, the dust has just begun to settle on 2011 holiday commerce numbers. Early returns, particularly from Black Friday and Cyber Monday, signaled a major win for mobile commerce.
Automotive manufacturer Ford Motor Co. unveiled the 2013 Ford Escape on Nov. 15 using social game developer Zynga's popular "Words With Friends" game and a competition against actress Jenny McCarthy, who played the Scrabble-like game live in Los Angeles.
Wikipedia defines "information design" as "the skill and practice of preparing information so people can use it with efficiency and effectiveness. Where data is complex or unstructured, a visual representation can express its meaning."
It's Black Friday. A crowd gathers outside your brand's flagship retail location. Despite the expected shopper crush, the doors remain locked long after opening hours because the store manager has overslept.
How's this for an attention-grabbing headline, courtesy of the Associated Press: "Here we go again: Another big down day for Dow." As I write this column, the Dow is going berserk again in a major stock sell-off on the heels of poor economic reports and European debt woes.
Industry self regulation of online behavioral tracking is falling far short of expectations, according to a Stanford University Security Lab study published in July. Online ad companies, including 24/7 Real Media and AudienceScience, violated their own policies on tracking opted-out consumers, according to the research (page 3).
The daily deals sector has garnered plenty of headlines in the marketing press recently, including in this publication. That's no surprise given its size (pegged at $1.25 billion by BIA/Kelsey) and judging by the players who've launched daily deals services — Google, Facebook, Amazon.com and AT&T — to compete with the likes of Groupon and LivingSocial.
Direct marketing agencies got their mojo back this year as revenues improved and clients began spending across marketing disciplines again. Where the watch words last year were "belt-tightening" and "shrinking budgets," this year recovery and steady growth are what top executives are talking about.
The news grabbing headlines this month was eBay's $2.4 billion acquisition of e-commerce services giant GSI Commerce, its bid to take on industry leader Amazon.com.
Location-based marketing provides enormous opportunity for direct marketers. Just as search reaches customers who've raised their hand seeking information, location-based marketing targets consumers potentially in the mood to buy and geographically near point of sale.
I had the privilege of sitting on the judging panel this week for the annual John Caples International Student Campaign of the Year Award, alongside representatives of sponsor Alloy Media & Marketing.
"It is not about adapting and accepting change anymore. It is about aggressively seeking it, being first to apply it, and then seek it again."
Value. As I perused the final draft pages of this month's issue, it struck me how many of our stories involve the idea of providing value to customers.
Poison front man Bret Michaels as savvy marketer? Don't laugh.
Welcome to our new monthly edition of Direct Marketing News. In addition to this 76-page issue, we have reengineered the website and introduced an iPad edition with exclusive material. We have also employed quick response codes.
As DMNews embarks on its rebranding, it is a good time to reflect on our industry.
After an exhaustive, six-month-long search, the Direct Marketing Association named Lawrence Kimmel president and CEO. Kimmel was chairman and CEO of Grey Direct from 2000 to 2008, before it was renamed G2 Direct & Digital, and prior to that logged time as EVP at Draft Worldwide and president of Unimark, a direct marketing agency he founded.
The marketing implications and opportunities presented by social media are dominating the marketing conversation right now, but marketers continue to struggle with ways to deploy social media, maintain a presence in social networking circles, integrate social advertising with other media channels and monetize those efforts.
The U.S. Postal Service unveiled details of its proposed "exigent price increase" last week and filed an application with its regulator, the Postal Regulatory Commission. Direct mailers sprang into action decrying the move, and mailers across the board vow to fight the increase (see cover story).
Major brand marketers are taking the digital direct response route to engage with customers and drive commerce from a variety of media channels. This issue of DMNews is devoted to Internet marketing in its many forms.
I watched a syndicated re-run of the popular sitcom "The Office" last week. This episode pits Michael Scott, regional manager at Dunder Mifflin, against his former temp and new boss, Ryan.
We've all heard the staggering numbers on the precipitous drop in direct mail, but let me remind you: There were 35 billion fewer pieces of mail in the system in 2009 compared with 2007's tally. It is in part why the US Postal Service, which reported an almost $2 billion shortfall in the first half of its fiscal 2010, is considering doing away with Saturday delivery.
I threw a birthday party for my fabulous boyfriend last week and used Evite, an online invitation tool, to get the word out. However, the mister's friends are mostly baby boomers, and I needed to actually pick up the phone (how quaint) and call a handful of invitees who simply aren't on e-mail or not on e-mail regularly enough to trust that method of communication.
Over lunch recently with the leader of a major direct marketing agency, I had the conversation again. You know, the one about the term direct marketing and what it really means, and whether it is still relevant?
Data intelligence is on my mind as I write this at 30,000 feet. I just spent 24 hours in Little Rock, AR, on a trip that included meetings with executives from two different data services companies.
The worst of the recession is behind us, and marketers are seeing budgets stabilize. Amid the slow recovery, though, direct marketers may need to re-think everything they have ever done. The picture has changed permanently. They will need to operate in a new environment that has direct marketing at its core, but goes way beyond traditional direct.
During last year's Academy Awards ceremony, 11% of viewers tracked by Nielsen's Convergence Panel simultaneously watched the Oscars on TV and followed them on the Internet. Nielsen Online also said that people who used Facebook while watching the broadcast spent an average of 76 minutes there, and it estimated more than 100,000 messages were Tweeted during the show.
There's no doubt mobile advertising and marketing in 2010 is on a steep growth curve. Two of the largest online players have signaled their commitment to the space in the last couple of months, investing a billion dollars in mobile ad companies. Apple spent $250 million to acquire Quattro Wireless, while Google laid down $750 million for AdMob. These companies also compete on the mobile hardware front.
Despite my ignorance of the most popular sport in this country, and my lack of football fever, I have always watched with interest the advertising alongside the big game, both as a marketing journalist and as a consumer. The Super Bowl ads tend to be entertaining and visually interesting. Super Bowl ads command big bucks, and this year, while the average price — $2.8 million for a 30-second spot — is less than last year's $3 million price tag, that trend continues.
It is a new year, but one in which direct and digital marketers continue to watch marketing budgets and exercise caution by sticking with proven and efficient marketing channels. Many companies remain more inclined to keep close to their existing customers rather than experiment with lofty acquisition strategies.
When a company like PepsiCo breaks tradition, skipping $3 million Super Bowl ads for the first time in more than two decades in favor of a CRM program, you know it is a watershed moment. Direct marketing is now the centerpiece of all advertising. We saw other signs of this turning point in 2009, as blue-chip marketers that historically favored TV branding campaigns — such as Ford Motor Co. — embraced social media and online communities to sell products and engender loyalty.
As we put this final issue issue of DMNews to bed and close out another year covering the direct marketing front, it is a natural time for reflection. However, it is a fleeting pause for so many people.
I'm back from the Direct Marketing Association's annual conference with a stack of business cards as big as my head. I always return from DMA Annual exhausted, but with a renewed sense of vigor and great story ideas.
Often simple ideas are the ones that resonate with your audience and end up defining your brand. Think JetBlue's customer bill of rights, LL Bean's return policy, or Apple's user manual. In the last week, many brands enhanced their communication strategies.
Ad agency Web sites suck. Well, most of them. I was doing research recently that involved visiting a long list of agency Web sites, including the global players in the direct marketing space and the generalists.
Last week, Sultan Munadi, an Afghan interpreter, was killed during a conflict in northern Afghanistan that resulted in the release of New York Times reporter Stephan Farrell from Taliban captivity. Munadi had tried to express his and Farrell's neutrality when they were initially detained by the Taliban months ago. Following this tragedy, I paused this week to think about the role of an interpreter in a much less extreme example — namely, how it relates to e-commerce.
Data is the unquestionable currency of direct marketing. It fuels new customer acquisition, informs new product development, drives relevance for existing customers and, in economic conditions like these, helps marketers justify their media spend and their jobs to the company CFO.
Like the high-school geek who uses his brainpower to surpass the success of his handsome, football-playing counterpart, direct and database professionals are finding the marketing world coming around to fully appreciating the breadth and depth of their sought-after talents.
Often, constructive dissension among a marketing team is muffled by the desire that everyone cooperate. For the last 57 years, since William Whyte introduced the term 'groupthink' to the pages of Fortune, it has referred to the mob conformity that stems from ideas produced by a group of like-minded people. Groupthink thrives on consensus and typically results in minimal progress and an utter lack of innovation.
We've all been there, waiting at home for the cable guy to come and install the system "sometime between noon and 5:00". When he finally shows up, the interaction you have with that one individual will play a major role in determining your attitude towards the brand going forward.
Do you have one of those friends that gets extremely specific when ordering at a restaurant? It's that person that has no qualms with requesting ingredient substitutions from a waiter despite not having a food allergy or restrictive cultural diet. He or she probably asks about the cooking techniques and equipment being used before committing to a particular dish. I know a few such people and they drive me crazy.
When I received my stimulus check last year, I — like most people — split it between the bank and bills. When the next stimulus comes through in paychecks starting April 1, part of it will still be headed to the bank, but because it will come incrementally, instead of as a lump sum, I'll use some for incidental purchases or to save for larger ones.
Ten years ago, I had a great relationship with my bank teller. I knew her sons' names, noticed when she got her hair cut and told her about my efforts to save for a new car. Today, I visit 24-hour ATMs, use direct deposit, make automatic bill payments and receive automatic e-mail alerts if my balance hits below my preset limit — all without speaking to anyone.
Last week, DMNews held its first editorial webcast. It was sponsored by e-mail marketing firm Lyris, developed and hosted by associate editor Dianna Dilworth, and featured input from Sylvia Sierra, VP of marketing at Access Intelligence; and Jeanniey Mullen, executive director of the Email Experience Council and EVP and CMO at Zinio.
I am a late-adopting iPhone user and, while I like it, there is one element of the device that is simply too smart for its own good — that is, the autocorrect of e-mail spelling, which has a habit of interpreting my rather basic vocabulary choices as arcane proper nouns. For example, a slowly typed "which" will sometimes translate to Whig, "have" becomes "Han," and the word "paying" for some reason morphs into "Latin."
Should newspapers be bailed out? Maybe. Each day brings new reports of newspaper layoffs, sales, bankruptcy filings, cutbacks in production or home delivery and moves to online only — and, of course, diminishing ad dollars and readers.
Last week, I left behind New York's cold weather to enjoy the tropical temperatures of an island off the coast of Central America. While I missed out on some scarf and glove wearing, I did not suffer for lack of good direct marketing examples.
As I watched the inauguration of President Obama last week with bated breath — mostly in fear of being kicked off of the NYTimes.com live video feed, which did eventually happen — I wasn't thinking much about the state of direct marketing. I was too busy wondering how Michelle Obama could stand and walk for hours in those shoes!
I've overheard a number of my colleagues whining over the lack of Internet media spending, given that 80% of the population are on the Web and spend considerable time there.
At some time anyone who sends e-mail and manages e-mail deliverability will have to deal with failure of an Internet service provider (ISP).
Last October, the DMNews team had an unparalleled opportunity to eavesdrop on the judges of the John Caples International Awards, who gathered in New York to assess creative work of peers from countries around the world.
I don't want to hear any more about continuing economic gloom. After weeks of dismal retail sales (despite all my shopping), round after round of layoffs (been there), ricocheting stock markets (ditto) and dire threats of more to come, I'm done. Time to stick a fork in this recession.
I predict 2009 will not be the year of impulse buying. Amid growing joblessness and falling stocks, frugality is "the new black" this year. Faced with the reality that clever copywriting may not always convert a sale and deep discounts may be unrealistic or appear unimpressive aligned with competitive offers, direct marketing may return to another important element in its roots: convenience.
As we finally wind down after an eventful year in the world of direct marketing - though some may say that's putting it mildly — we can look back and see that 2008 was clearly not a year for marketers to rest on their laurels.
I don't think anyone needed the official government pronouncement that we have been in a recession since last December. As DMNews has reported, consumers are abandoning credit and using cash, debit and other alternatives, such as layaway, to pay for purchases. And, while there was a slight increase in retail sales over the Thanksgiving weekend, the result may only be a blip in a tough season for retailers.
Whether it's on a mobile phone, an e-mail inbox or a social network profile page, the personal space of a consumer is coveted real estate. This week, we had a chance to look closer at one of the most fundamental personal spaces: the mailbox.
When it comes to properly targeting your marketing message, understanding your audience — what it wants to know, how it wants to hear what it wants to know — is essential. So the first word that comes to mind when I think of the Motrin/Twitter mayhem of last week is "oy" — the traditional Yiddish term of dismay.
As the latest in a series of steps that has changed the use of video and long-form footage online, Google opened YouTube up to search ads last week, allowing advertisers to tie their commercials to specific words entered into YouTube's search box.
This week, my thoughts turned to personalization - a concept that seems to keep gaining fans in the marketing world, who believe that creating offers unique to increasingly targeted audiences can lead to better engagement and ROI.
At last week's Direct Marketing Association's annual convention in Las Vegas, I witnessed remarkable collaboration across disciplines and national borders. I was inspired to step outside of the traditional business arena for some fresh perspective. Despite spending the week in Nevada's desert, I reflected on something aquatic: The crystal jelly, a glowing sea animal studied by this month's Nobel Prize in Chemistry honorees.
You know the feeling: You're sitting in a conference session or a long meeting and suddenly the voices start sounding like Charlie Brown's teacher, "Wonk-wonk-wonk-wonk-wonk." That's right, "conference coma" happens to the best of us.
October is not traditionally a month during which one has much time to reflect. Schools are back in session, preparation and shopping for the holidays begins and, for direct marketing, the industry gathers at some of the biggest shows of the year to swap business cards and trade tactics.
As painful and befuddling as it has been to watch, hear and read, it was impossible to ignore the mountain of bad-to-worse news coming out of Washington and Wall Street last week regarding the financial crisis and proposed economic bailout.
We all love to laugh, but telling a joke takes courage, as anyone who has stood up in front of a group and tried to remember a punch line will agree. The same is true in the world of advertising and marketing.
Last Monday, I began my work week in a bit of a direct marketing funk. After all, I was still smarting from the fact that I didn't receive the text message from Barack Obama that I had signed up for (which I mentioned in my last editorial).
In this issue's Spotlight, Sam Pulcrano of the US Postal Service shares the agency's plans on sustainability, as well as his own views on the environment. He makes it clear that the agency's involvement in eco-friendly practices is not new.
Okay, I signed up. I'll be getting an e-mail and text message as soon as Barack Obama announces his pick for vice president. In fact, I might have already received it by the time you read this. However, I didn't sign up because I needed to be "the first to know," as Obama's Web site touted last week. Instead, this was a trailblazing marketing moment — the first time that a presidential campaign has used mobile and e-mail marketing in this way — so I wanted to see what the fuss was all about.
In this cost-cutting world, many speculate that direct marketing will become the tactical breadwinner of the advertising industry. Heralding this trend is last week's Communications Industry Forecast from Veronis Suhler Stevenson.
I've wondered recently how marketers and agencies keep up with the light-speed changes in the digital media space, especially in social media. From branded Facebook applications and Twitter marketing to MySpace hypertargeting and niche social networking sites, the seemingly endless shifts are enough to make any advertiser's head spin.
In response to criticism from PETA and other animal rights groups regarding TV spots featuring pit bulls in choke chains, McCann Erickson client Verizon reportedly said it didn't intend to offend. Last week, Virgin Mobile faced criticism from religious groups over its "Strip2Clothe" video contest, which had asked people to send videos of themselves undressing to raise money for the homeless. The company later renamed the push "Blank2Clothe," extending the contest to include any action, not just stripping.
When my (now) husband and I drove out of Brooklyn last month for our Vermont wedding and Maine honeymoon, we enjoyed our first extended experience with a GPS tracking device.
Less than two years ago, after Time declared "You" as its person of the year, marketers spent lots of time brainstorming ways for consumers to participate in brands and express themselves. But the time of "you" is dead. Design-your-own X contests no longer cut it. Now it's the time of "we."
We last ran a list of exhibitors and booth numbers for a major show in the October 15, 2007 issue, for DMA07. Attendees thanked us; non-attendees were largely quiet on the matter, apart from the three separate people who informed us that it was less useful without the companies' Web addresses.
While the growth and profile of mobile marketing continues apace, its progression has been marked both by caution and uncertainty on the part of advertisers, and by periodic revolutions on the technical and infrastructure side.
The talent crunch in the direct marketing world is unfortunately afflicting companies of all shapes and sizes. While the effects of operating with an incomplete staff lineup are widespread, they can have a particularly detrimental effect on how the company is perceived from the outside. And with customer service as the first frontier of a company's reputation, getting it wrong can be fatal.
As members of the catalog industry gather this week at the ACCM conference, comparisons will be made to the mood at last year's event. The industry had just been socked with a major postal increase, and there was a genuine fear that without making substantial changes, many catalogs would crumble.
You may have noticed that the Private View element in The Work has recently been expanded, to allow the creatives that generously give their time to critique the work we run in the feature a little more space to show off their insights.
I spent two evenings without Internet or American Idol last week, thanks to the "catastrophic failure" of my Verizon FiOS equipment. Checking my Gmail at work, the two evenings added up to 140 non-spam messages. Of the daunting 116 commercial messages, 112 came as a result of my having opted in.
When a company begins an announcement with the words, "To further enhance a great customer experience..." what frequently follows is a statement that might suggest otherwise. Dell began its announcement of its new premium support option thusly, and as it outlines the inarguably great benefits — paying customers can talk to the same, North America-based technicians every time they have a problem — it is an unfortunate reminder of how quality assistance can often be lacking from many companies' customer service arms.
Now that Tax Day is behind us, retailers are waiting to see if the government's stimulus checks will be spent, or socked away. Many retail brands have already been campaigning creatively to persuade Americans that it is their duty to their economy to flood the money into stores.
Like a gone-to-pot husband ambushed by Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Microsoft's heavy hand of intervention has had Yahoo scrabbling to clean up its act and trying to remind itself, and the world, that it was once young and attractive.
With the confluence of postal increases, consumers' green advocacy and soaring paper costs, it wouldn't be unreasonable to think that insert media is one of the print-rooted areas that are currently under attack.
It's a reality now that marketers and their DM partners are feeling the effects of shifting, even declining, budgets, and many are nimbly making tweaks to their business models. InfoUSA is like many others who are grappling with the slowing growth of the direct mail business, and it has worked to build up its technological capabilities, enhancing the power of its database offerings.
Company of the week
Fairfield Marketing Group, Inc.
Concerned about growth? With over 25 years experience in the industry, the list experts at Fairfield Marketing Group possess the know-how to help immediately improve any domestic or international direct marketing effort.
What's in our mailbox this month: fitness postcards from Retro Fitness, American Woman Fitness Centers, Union's United Taekwondo Academy, and Bally Total Fitness. (We're totally pumped.)
Social data can improve a brand's bottom line and customer relationships. Just ask brands Infiniti and Diamond Nexus.
Here are three must-have data sets that every marketer should include in his or her email strategy.