Q&A: David Brown, Meredith Integrated Marketing EVP and GM of content and CRM

Meredith Integrated Marketing promoted David Brown to EVP and GM on April 18. In his new role he’ll oversee Meredith Integrated Marketing’s content and CRM business, including supervision of Directive, Meredith’s database analytics agency. He spoke with Direct Marketing News about his new role and the similarities between publishing and marketing.

Direct Marketing News (DMN): You’ve been with Meredith since 2005. How has the CRM industry changed in that time?

David Brown (Meredith): I don’t think the underlying philosophy has changed. The places where CRM thinking is applied are broader and more complex. Digital, social and mobile CRM thinking is the same but the application is more complicated in terms of execution. I’m not a big believer in the word “relationship.” Marketers use it but customers have needs and those needs vary by channel. It’s the marketers’ jobs to understand which needs need to be met in which channel.

DMN: Where do you believe CRM is headed? Can social CRM be a major part of the marketing industry’s future or is it best used as a service platform?

Brown: I’m very interested in social CRM. Social makes CRM thinking more mainstream. Social channels are not the be-all and end-all of consumer insights. It’s not representative. It skews. CRM is on the way to becoming very mainstream. CRM thinking is moving toward not becoming just marketing thinking. Clients are applying CRM beyond marketing. They’re applying philosophies to media planning, site design, mobile. It’s all becoming rather mainstream.

DMN: What are the parallels between the publishing industry and the CRM industry?

Brown: That’s the heart of Meredith. Applying publisher methods to broader marketing problems. A publisher that is a CRM thinker has to find an audience, reach an audience and convert it into revenue. Clients are acting like publishers, bringing audiences to social channels and converting the audience into revenue. If you have an audience who wants to talk or listen, you need to have an approach to content development and management, which is a publisher’s core business.

DMN: Meredith recently launched a Groupon-like deals program on Parents.com. What does the popularity of daily deal sites tell us about CRM? Is cultivating relationships as important as we think or is a good deal all anyone really cares about?

Brown: There’s a portion of the audience who wants a deal. The coupon industry is thriving and has grown. It’s become much more mainstream. Digital coupons are up market. Meredith moved into this market because there’s always going to be a portion of the audience hunting for a deal. If you want this audience, you have to have a way to meet their needs. My concern about couponing as a whole is the age-old concern. Couponing dilutes margin against loyal users. Marketers should only expose those coupons to new users to drive trial. Most marketers haven’t spent enough time examining that. They’re happy to have an overall sales effect.

DMN: Can daily deal sites drive loyalty? Can they go beyond one-off sales?

Brown: That’s what direct marketers love to do. They’re very passionate about working out how to drive loyalty instead of just making another financial offer. Marketers must use a variety of tools, ideas, special services and communities to determine how to do this. They’ve got to find new ways of defining value. There are many ways to drive repeat purchases without making a financial offer.

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