Friday, April 1st, 2011

Digital and Direct

It’s funny how quickly conventions can be established. Like the one that says ‘direct + digital = good’ and ‘direct + print = bad’ for example There was a time when a well targeted, relevant, timely and conventional piece of direct mail was a regular feature of many a direct response or CRM plan. Just read Rory’s pre-BE stuff if you doubt me.

But today the relentless drive to shift activity online seems to leave this form of media as a relative bystander. I got thinking about this when I visited my yahoo inbox earlier today. I reckon I receive around 50 emails each day into my yahoo account. A symptom of my interest in ‘what brands are doing’ and concurrent willingness to tick the box and hand over my email address at every opportunity.

Of those 50 emails I estimate a good 5-10% are from the nice people at Groupon. Now they know quite a lot about my preferences – yep, couldn’t help ticking the boxes – which should mean I receive the odd very cleverly targeted offer from them right? Well I guess I do occasionally but the odd spa / facial discount does seem to sneak through – perhaps inevitable when you are playing a tenacity and frequency game as they clearly are. Anyway, the main point and interesting thing about Groupon is the channels they use to reach me — essentially email. I have not once arrived home to find a shiny, super-relevant Groupon mailing on my doormat. This is astounding given what they know about me. Think about it. I went to them, volunteered some pretty personal information and what did I get in return? A barrage of emails!

I see a growing number of brands behaving in this way. Shifting away from ‘traditional’ channels … in many cases due to a collective perception that ‘traditional’ must be less effective and efficient than other, newer-media. Of course this is not the case and used in the right way and given the right role – usually as part of an integrated strategy – traditional direct channels can have fantastic impact.

We help HP sell digital printers across EMEA so I am well versed in the argument for digital print and how that has revolutionized the commercial model for direct mail. But clearly not all brand owners can be as familiar with its benefits and possibilities. It does seem inevitable to me that as familiarity with these print technologies grows, the balance of new and old channels will return to a level that reflects their respective, rational merits. Smarter and more integrated re-targeting strategies and platforms will be a big driver of this and is an area in which brand owners are sure to find plenty of marketing gold.

By Richard Mabbott, SVP, Planning at London marketing agency, gyro

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