By Keith Trivitt | @KeithTrivitt | Director, Marketing and Communications
Writing in a blog post last June, Direct Marketing News Editor-in-Chief Ginger Conlon asked the thought-provoking question, “What is direct marketing, anyway?” The piece sparked dozens of comments, an editorial series in the September issue of DMNews and some serious soul searching by direct and digital marketers.
Conlon’s post focused on the basic notion of direct marketing, its relevancy and value to brands and whether the term is relevant in the digital age. She concluded by asking: Is direct marketing still the most appropriate name for the discipline?
The comments section of that post are a menagerie of opinions on whether the term “direct marketing” is outdated or sullied by surreptitious and outdated practices, or if it continues to resonate with consumers and brands in a meaningful way.
As someone who oversees marketing at an integrated digital media agency, MediaWhiz, that offers digital direct-response services to clients, I have a biased opinion on this matter. I personally believe that direct marketing remains highly relevant, both in its value to clients and as a term to describe a form of marketing.
Direct marketing’s greatest value to brands is its direct-to-consumer focus that is about relevancy at the point of purchase. It is the most specific form of customer acquisition. The very point of direct marketing is to generate a sale or acquire a lead that eventually becomes a sale. In an age of fragmented consumer attention that is a rare and valuable asset for any brand to have in its marketing toolkit.
Direct marketing is also measurable and performance-based. It is one of the purest forms of marketing because brands can so clearly tie their marketing spend to results. When done right, direct marketing, especially in the digital age, drives measurable brand engagement and affinity, which delivers what every marketer is ultimately seeking: leads and sales.
Digital-focused direct marketers are doing some amazing work in lead-gen, direct-response creative, site development and analytics. These innovative campaigns are helping remake direct marketing into one of the most fascinating forms of modern marketing.
The issue is that direct marketing comes with a rather outdated reputation: junk mail. And that’s a terribly impersonal form of marketing in an era where personalization is everything.
The term “direct marketing” doesn’t need to be redefined, per se, but reconsidered by marketers, agencies and advertisers and repositioned within the broader marketing industry. (And I say that as someone who led an industry-wide initiative at the Public Relations Society of America to redefine public relations.)
What is needed more than a new definition is an expansion of the concept of direct marketing to encompass all aspects of the field (including media-mix analytics, direct-response creative, lead-gen, etc.) as well as a better education effort on the part of direct marketers and the industry. Doing so should help consumers and brands understand and appreciate the industry’s broader modern role and value.
Want to know more about direct marketing’s uses in the digital age? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or ask a question in the comments below.