The myths of direct marketing creative

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Brian Schwartz
Brian Schwartz

Great direct marketing creative offers any company a real competitive advantage, especially because so few firms are doing a truly good job. One reason for the lack of high-performing creative is a reliance on newly minted “online experts” for integration of digital into a marketing strategy. The Web has a lot of guidance in both direct marketing strategy and the integration of online channels, but some amazing resources are mixed with many that should be avoided. The real trick, of course, is being able to discern which information to trust. As a starting point, I'd like to dispel three of the biggest myths out there. 

Myth #1: Direct marketing is dead

With the advent of every new communication medium, there has been an overwhelming rallying cry to reinvent the rules. Direct marketing experienced this first with radio and TV, and is now revisiting it with online, mobile and social. But what's really going on is not a revolution, but rather an evolution.

Detractors will say that online/mobile/social has nothing to do with the “advertising of the past” and that today's savvy consumers will reject anything that even resembles traditional advertising. The reality, however, is that consumers are consumers. Their willingness to purchase hasn't changed. They'll still fill out a form, click a link or even make a phone call with the proper motivation – and the key to direct marketing creative has always been to find the source of that motivation.

Myth #2: Direct marketing creative starts with the designer

There was a time when copy drove direct response creative and copywriters often led and directed creative teams. The reasoning was that while a designer would approach a creative goal by envisioning the visual aesthetic needed to attain a goal, a copywriter would start by envisioning what was necessary, in terms of design and copy, to form an attachment with the user.

But the advent of online direct marketing has skewed the creative dynamic toward the designer. Now it is often user interface and user experience designers leading creative teams, tasked with unveiling the perfect means of connecting with the user. But the reality is that the emotional connection with the user (the hallmark of direct marketing) is often being overlooked.

Of course there has been a large move toward creating “personas,” which detail just who a company's target users are and what they are motivated by. But knowing everything about a person is very different from knowing how to compel that person to act, and that is what copywriters do best. The moral here is to recognize that your experienced copywriters are valuable members of your creative team, and that successful direct marketing creative is built on knowing how to connect with the user.

Myth #3: Senior management always knows best

There are many executives who are absolutely brilliant in their roles, but who don't understand creative. This often doesn't stop them, however, from dictating what creative should be and hiring a creative team whose sole purpose is to bring their “visions” to light. Valuable creative resources can be wasted as a result. If you're an executive and your team is pleading with you to try something that you don't agree with, it's important to be open to testing the ideas. And keep testing. That's what direct marketing creative is all about.

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