The Future of Direct Marketing

Trying to precisely predict the future of a discipline like direct marketing would be a fool’s errand. But taking a few quick stabs at what’s ahead could be rewarding – and sounds like fun.

1. “e” is here to stay. That Internet commerce is here and growing is incontrovertible. If you’re not a part of it, go there or be forever left behind. In fact, being a part of it is not the challenge – staying ahead of the curve is. Clicking to select groceries and buying sisal from Bhutan will seem ordinary. Tomorrow will bring:

• Thought-to-speech processing, in limited form.

• Videoconferencing that’s smooth, lifelike and taken for granted.

• More friends and associates in distant parts of the globe.

• A continuing need for one-to-one contact on many levels.

2. Getting different. Many corporate competitors project identical messages of having vast capabilities and tremendous ease of doing business. Because we are inundated by similar claims and e-this and e-that, we need to find the unique advantages that make people’s lives easier and that give us (on the corporate or agency side) a unique edge.

3. Personality will count more than ever before. People buy from people. The successful businesses of tomorrow will have strong individuals behind it who can project a vision and lead by example.

On another level, but not entirely removed, we will see the return of individualized service, whether on the Web or in a shop.

4. No major advertising medium will disappear. DMers who think they can forget about how other media work will miss out on big opportunities. It turns out, in fact, that direct mail is increasingly recognized as the medium for promoting Web sites. Radio will be another potent secret weapon of smart DM warriors. Maybe even cave paintings will have a big return.

5. Big ideas will be more valued and will be dominant. In other words, creativity rules. In advertising, the power of the big idea is the company maker or breaker. Sometimes, these ideas will come from writers and designers in the form of great copy lines and images. But just as often, the ideas will come from other parts of the company in the form of innovative offers, delivery systems, new services and technologies, and even, as I said, the personal touch.

In the year 1000, the talk among monks padding about the castle was probably all about those incredible, new-fangled illuminated manuscripts (called Incunabula). Let’s face it, every millennium has its buzz. Whether it’s MP3, G2, push, pull or ride-the-next-tsunami, to be a direct marketer in the new millennium is to face an exhilarating world. Never before have the prospects for creativity and opportunity been this exciting.

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