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Is it time to rename direct marketing? Readers respond

Is it time to rename direct marketing? Readers respond to the September Gloves Off question.

Jeff Scurlock, director of customer development, Napkin Labs

As I’ve evolved my sales and marketing strategy into more customer collaboration, I’ve started using the term engagement marketing. The word engagement evokes the concept of talking to or with specific, targeted customers, but the implied emphasis is on the “with.” Wouldn’t most of us rather be talked “with” than talked “to,” and “engaged,” rather than “targeted”? These slight semantic adjustments make a big impact on the way customers feel about a brand.

Keith Trivitt, director of marketing and communications, MediaWhiz

Direct marketing is direct in that it’s about relevancy, but it’s also measurable and performance-based…brands can clearly tie spend back to results. When done right, direct marketing, especially in the digital age, drives measurable brand engagement and affinity, which delivers what every marketer is seeking: leads and sales.

The issue is that direct marketing comes with an outdated perception: junk mail—a terribly impersonal form of marketing in an era where personalization is everything.

I don’t think a new name for direct marketing is needed, but an expansion of the concept and, certainly, a better education effort on the part of direct marketers and the industry, is necessary to help consumers and brands understand the industry’s broader modern role and value.

MJ Crabbe-Barberis, director of industry and product marketing – CRM, Infor

Direct should mean that you’re delivering your message to a “known entity”; you know something about the individual that enables you to deliver a specific message to them. I’ve always maintained that direct marketing is the most rewarding type of marketing because, generally speaking, you maintain the ability to create a one-to-one, full-circle view of the entire experience including the customer’s response and then future behaviors. To me the sticky part is actually the word marketing. Perhaps by using the label of marketing we’re being too narrow in scope. I prefer the concept of a strategic message that may be part of an overall customer communication strategy. I would also propose that by labeling it marketing we might not be applying the highest level of  integrity to the messaging and targeting.

Brent Leary, partner and cofounder, CRM Essentials

Direct marketing is a good phrase; it’s just that most people have a definition for it that’s a bit dated. So if maybe marketers would update their definition; and maybe if they updated their approach; and maybe if they updated their ability to interact (meaning listen to, not just project at) with customers, we could keep the phrase. There’s nothing wrong with direct marketing, as long as it is directly related to my needs, using the channels I like, and allows me to feel more like an equal than a target.

Robyn Federman, director of communications, Catalyst

I suspect that about five years from now, we won’t be having conversations like this. The distinctions between direct/digital/online/offline/etc., are becoming blurred. What’s different now is that the customer drives the conversation on a grander scale than we’ve historically seen. Yes, we’ve gotten better at data-driven decision-making. Yes, we’ve gotten better at customer-relationship marketing. Yes, we’ve gotten better at engagement, relevancy, cross-channel optimization, multichannel marketing—all those things. Does branding still matter? You bet it does. Can a “direct” agency create and steward a great brand? You bet it can. Is there a word or phrase that covers the full spectrum? Maybe it’s just marketing.

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