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Direct Is A Rose: Response Smells Sweet

“A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet,” said Juliet in Shakespeare’s play.

A few hundred years later Gertrude Stein penned “A rose is a rose is a rose.”

This came to mind reflecting on how the Direct Marketing Association (the DMA) changed its name to the Data & Marketing Association (still the DMA) just over a year ago, and just recently announced a merger with the ANA (Association of National Advertisers).

Why the change? Why shift “Direct” to “Data?”

Well, it seems that “direct marketing” – or DM, as it is sometimes abbreviated in the industry – has come to be limited in people’s minds to “direct mail.” Which in truth is just a small part of the discipline, which spans all media – digital, broadcast, print and more.

Is it true? Do people really not understand? Did the name need to be changed? Does direct marketing not mean all that it used to mean? Do I agree? Do you agree?

As a career direct marketer, I’ve come to realize it doesn’t really matter. What matters is what your prospects and customers think. If in fact people think direct marketing means direct mail, then it’s time for a change for the discipline as a whole.

So call it direct marketing, response marketing, DM marketing, or what you will. There are certain truths in the discipline that will remain the same. And we’ll share how each of these three roses signify one of those three truths.

Timeless Truth #1: It’s All About Self-Interest and Offer

It always has been, and it always will be. General advertising can use budgets of $100M to create cultural icons and awareness and a measure of differentiation.

Our particular skillset is to leverage a brand to drive response, persuade consumers that they need to part with their hard-earned dollars. It’s a unique skillset to move a customer through their own particular customer journey through consideration and into purchase. To get beyond features and benefits to advantages, prove those advantages and persuade someone that they need to take action today.

It’s a specialty skillset that we’ve refined over a number of decades – and will continue to do so in all media. Data, indeed, plays a very large part in what we do.

Timeless Truth #2: It’s All About Targeting (Data Part 1)

This is where the insights and processes we’ve honed and built over the years have been refined. We’ve layered on top many different digital and data mining tools that are available today. This allows us – better than we ever could before – to hone and refine campaigns to drive results better than what they’ve been before. Finding that consumer in ways that we haven’t previously been able to find them.

We’ve got refinements in geo-targeting and household targeting. We have more arrows in the quiver, and more powerful arrows than ever before.

Timeless Truth #3: It’s All About Testing, Measuring & Refining (Data Part 2)

This is where direct marketing really gets fun. Being able to read the data across all channels and across all aspects of a campaign as an integrated agency, we’re able to better define results. So we’re looking across all platforms and channels, including digital, mail, print, and broadcast, and reading results by creative, by offer, and by various media factors to refine and drive results in real time.

THE Ultimate Truth About DM

So is DM – direct marketing – about mail? Yes, in some measure it continues to be.

Is it about data? Yes, and it always has been.

Is it about digital? It has been for a number of decades. And we’re adding new digital platforms and tools to drive the efficiency of what we do almost daily.

So here’s the truth about what we do: creative that’s built around self-interest and offer, strategy built around targeting, and campaigns that are driven by testing, measuring and refining. So call it direct marketing, response marketing, ROI marketing, or – as some of our clients do – “Thank God you helped me make my numbers” marketing, our goal remains the same as it has for years: to drive results that smell sweet to our clients.