The NZ Marketing Association‘s call-to-arms for the NZDM Awards features the line “Is this DM?”, challenging marketers to re-assess what counts as “direct marketing”.

As data-driven marketing has come to the fore driven by new technology and an explosion of personally attributable data, the waters around the direct marketing space have muddied greatly. So is the art and science of DM a dying specialism, or is it actually finally in a position to realise its one-to-one potential?

Twenty’s MD Simon Breed was called in for an interview with the Marketing Association to try getting to the bottom of the issue.

There are some who would argue that the rise of digital has signalled the demise of DM, but the reality is that the digital era presents a wealth of opportunities.

What is DM and have the basic tenets changed?

In our view, direct marketing is any marketing that seeks to evoke a measurable behavioural change from a knowable audience that ultimately leads to a profitable sales outcome. It usually involves starting, evolving or prolonging an ongoing relationship with someone.

Given this definition, it is clear that the tenets have not changed in the digital era. Indeed, the opportunity for real time one-to-one has magnified significantly. It is now greater than it has ever been, and smart marketers are capitalising.

Organisations that are using DM well

There are now many examples of organisations that are using DM well. Amazon is an oft-cited example, plying data brilliantly to help lead on our purchasing behaviour and nudge additional sales along the way.

Another example would be Volvo’s 2015 Superbowl campaign.

The Superbowl attracts over 100 million television viewers in the US alone1, and each year advertisers spend a fortune to get their products in front of this audience. Car brands themselves spent $60 million on this year’s game. Rather than match their competitors spending for a share of this untargeted audience, Volvo ‘intercepted’ that spend by starting a social conversation via twitter. Whenever a competing car commercial appeared, Volvo prompted viewers to tweet who they would give the new Volvo CX60 to. The conversation stole the show, both nationally and globally. Those conversations subsequently turned into a segment leading 70% increase in sales of the XC60 after the campaign. A truly exceptional performance, well worthy of recognition.

Volvo’s communication created a connection with an identifiable audience, producing a measurable behavioural change and a profitable sales outcome. We’re hoping that they follow-up on those conversations to convert additional sales over time.

Whether they do or not, it does go to show that in the world of multi-screening, social media, big data and massive technology advances, the basic tenets of direct marketing are still being brought to bear powerfully for brands that use it well. 

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