Update: Chicago Show Highlights Branding, Launches Privacy Initiative

CHICAGO — Last week's 45th annual Chicago DM Days conference left few stones unturned as it made good on its pledge to help nearly 3,000 attendees and exhibitors “connect with the great forces of marketing” as declared on the cover of its bold lightning-branded program.

Included in the two-day event was the guest appearance of Scott Turow, author of “Presumed Innocent” and an attorney in the Chicago area, as well as industry heavyweight Howard Draft honored as Direct Marketer of the Year by the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing. Draft, who is chairman of DraftWorldwide, said his key to success in direct marketing was to “hire great people, train them well, give them responsibility and then get out of their way.”

Unlike direct marketing summits of days gone by, this gathering seemed pivotal: It confirmed that brand-awareness advertising is merging with direct response marketing and that the industry as a whole is moving into a kind of hi-tech renaissance marked by changing rules, changing players and dynamic new ideas.

Industry veteran Lester Wunderman set the tone by declaring in his keynote address on Feb. 11 that the “postpresent” era has arrived, a “dynamic frontier between the past and the future.” The postpresent is the future that is already happening — a revolutionary marketplace of changing paradigms that will pay its greatest premium to those most capable of original thinking. But he also warned that many “producers and their promotional allies don't know how to prepare to take advantage of this new marketing opportunity.” Too many people in business today “want customer loyalty, but they can't or won't deal with the individual needs of their customers,” a trend, he said, is leading to the creation of a whole new industry.

Wunderman's most poignant observations surrounded his searing focus on what loyalty really means for the direct marketer: the “proclivity to repurchase.” Loyalty in relation to direct marketing, he said, is something that needs to be thought of in terms of creating a relationship that leads to repeat purchases, to securing “the longer sale.”

To be sure, the conference itself was organized to help participants move more quickly toward developing stronger brands within the context of shifting competition, technological innovation and hi-tech, solution-oriented planning. Included was a myriad of workshops and seminars detailing the pitfalls and challenges that beginning and war-torn marketers alike are facing in Wunderman's postpresent era. One particularly noteworthy seminar that summed up the depth and seriousness of the conference was titled: “Creating Brand Identity… It Is Too Brain Surgery.” It was led by Liz Brohan, president of Express Lane, a division of Lighton Colman, Chicago, and centered around combining brand theory with response strategizing.

Although an emphasis on the importance of emerging privacy regulations and their relationship to garnering long-term consumer confidence clearly was missing from the overall program, CADM is planning a comprehensive privacy policy for its members, and a complete survey on privacy was available at registration.

“We are definitely looking at privacy, but we're understanding that privacy is a moving target. You say privacy and different people come up with different definitions,” said Meg Goodman, a partner at Direct Marketers Performance Consulting Group, Chicago, and chairwoman of CADM's advocacy committee. “We want our members to be in touch with consumers about privacy, and we understand that they need something further than a code of ethics. We need to look at what consumers think is responsible data sharing as well.”

Goodman, who is working with Shawn Donnelley, an attorney and partner at R.R. Donnelley & Sons, said they hope to have a published policy by the end of the first quarter of this year.

The next CADM will be Feb. 24-25, 2000.

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