e-marketing enhances direct mail rather than replacing it

e-marketing enhances direct mail rather than replacing it

Online activity is having a magnifying effect on direct marketing spend, and agencies that employ sophisticated views of how the two channels interact, will capture the market spend. Richard Marshall, business development director at Tullo Marshall Warren offers his expertise.

A recent survey among member agencies of the international network of independent direct agencies, InterDirect, uncovered the firm view that direct marketing spend will continue to grow across world markets.

While this will, in part, be fuelled by the growth of digital campaigns, it will not necessarily be at the expense of more traditional media such as direct mail. In fact, the survey revealed that if anything, it would lead to more integrated campaigns using the respective strengths of on- and offline channels.

The growth of integrated campaigns is not surprising as it's simply a reflection of how communications and technology are changing the way in which society interacts.

From email to microsites, SMS and other handheld devices, digital media provides opportunities to target increasingly hard-to-get-at target audiences. And in instances where direct mail on its own may be approaching "wearout", they provide inventive ways to connect with prospects and customers.

There is nothing new about the idea of using an integrated mix of media. For many years, above-the-line agencies in particular have relied on a variety of media to achieve reach and frequency by playing on the strengths of different combinations. Together, they help to achieve greater impact as cost effectively as possible.

Applying the same theory to direct mail and digital channels makes absolute sense. But even more so, because digital channels are relatively more cost effective and can actually enable interaction with the target audience.

So, what is the maturing view on how best to integrate digital and direct mail? The questions are really quite fundamental. We need to understand what the respective roles are for each media, how they will add value to the total brand experience and create customer value and loyalty over time.

Take Guinness, for example, which has been running a very successful relationship marketing programme using an integrated approach to keep the brand top of mind. Once recruited, consumers are sent a range of communications around drinking occasions such as Christmas and St Patrick's Day, plus about new product innovations and "in-pub" events.

A good example of the impact of integration is 2004’s St Patrick's Day campaign. Falling on a Wednesday, consumers needed to be encouraged to break their usual routine and head to the pub for a pint of the black stuff.

Direct mail was the core component, containing a Guinness-branded harmonica with a guide which would enable them to impress their friends on the night by playing The Irish Rover. Clearly only direct mail could deliver this kind of impact with a touchy-feely gadget.

However, to support the direct mail, a viral email campaign was developed which took people to a microsite where they were invited to join in a virtual party online and find out where their nearest Guinness party pub was.

This boosted awareness of St Patrick's Day and the excuse it provided to drink Guinness among people who had received the mailpack, but email made it possible to get the message out to their friends, many of whom would not be members of the Guinness relationship marketing programme, with the ultimate aim of recruiting them as members.

This led to a community of tens of thousands of Guinness drinkers online. Both strings to the campaign had differing objectives, but ultimately the campaign became greater than the sum of its parts.

The more integrated campaigns we do, the better we will understand how direct mail and digital can work together in terms of supporting the brand and ultimately, return on investment. As the success stories mount, the trend is surely set to grow.

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