In partnership with Canon and Target Marketing, SPC conducted a one-day open house at our brand new, high performance inkjet production facility in June. We invited a roster of great speakers to shed light on the current state and future of marketing. Their insights touched on many of the issues facing today’s marketers, and how direct mail still plays a critical (if not central) role in the modern marketing mix.
Ron Jacobs: The Sky Is Not Falling
Ron Jacobs, CEO of Jacobs Clevenger and author of the book, “Successful Direct Marketing Methods,” spoke and unspooled his vision of where direct marketing is going.
Jacobs talked about how changes in marketing in the last 15-20 years have caused us to re-frame our view of marketing. Consumer behavior has changed, and this evolution is responsible for the growth of e-commerce. As a culture (and consumers), we now believe the messages and opinions of our peers more than we generally trust those of brands. But this is more opportunity than threat. Marketers simply need to dig deeper for insights to get at the needs of consumers, to work harder and win consumers over with benefits and empathy. “Data is the DNA of business,” he reminded the audience. Jacobs explained that even though data is now central to marketing, the process is not just about information. Effective marketers have moved from dealing purely in logic to a recognition that authentic emotional connections are essential to the marketing process.
What Customers Want
Jacobs also enumerated some of the crucial things customers want:
- Over 50% of consumers ages 18-44 are willing to give up personal information for relevant user experiences.
- 80% of consumers are inclined to share personal data when they receive offers or data-enabled benefits.
- They want fresh ideas they haven’t seen or experienced before.
- Consumers want more convenience, connectivity, consumption channels and choice of communications frequency.
- Cross-device marketing has become familiar, even expected. Consumers open direct mail but respond online.
- They seek easy access to production information and service 24/7. Friction for consumers means failure for brands.
(Source: Digital agency Code Computerlove, April 2018 http://www.codecomputerlove.com)
He also decried the “sky is falling” messages of media and industry publications, explaining it this way: “The ‘dystopian state of marketing’ is not true.” Jacobs pointed out that “there’s some basis in fact there, but direct marketing is not dead. They say that brands are dead, retail is dead, and agencies are dead. But it’s not the case. We are just changing the way we go to marketing, and in a way, that looks a lot less like marketing.”
So, how are marketers supposed to adapt to a flurry of constant changes in the marketplace? Jacobs suggests scrapping the traditional linear marketing process in favor of an Agile model, an iterative process for both direct mail and digital. Utilizing micro-strategies and design sprints can also help marketers get to big insights earlier, and rapid prototyping/iterating yields results more quickly with less time and effort. Tools like AI, predictive analytics and others are also driving marketing departments to be smaller and more adept.
Jacobs also explained, “People are thinking, ‘I want my communications to be personalized, because my life is so busy and fast.’ They are happy to trade data for convenience.” In that respect, Jacobs acknowledged that direct mail needs to work harder and do better. Basic name personalization is not enough. “Most decisions are made emotionally,” he said. “Logic is how we rationalize. Emotions are how we make decisions.” Thoughtful personalization should be incorporated into all marketing, shopping and service experiences.
Lily Harder: Measuring Involvement, Not Investment
Speaker Lily Harder, VP of Research at Mintel, unpacked current trends in digital marketing and a host of opportunities in direct mail. She reminded the audience of marketers and printers that marketing has changed–from promotional channel to an interactive one. The “digital consumer” is influencing the marketplace in profound ways, and it’s a mistake to think that digital channels are only for millennials and younger audiences. Most of digital media growth is happening in mobile, regardless of the age group.
Harder explained that 69% of digital media time is spent on mobile devices. Millennials spend 53 hours online per week, but she said it was important to note that millennial are not a mobile-only group—just mobile-first. They still use mobile in conjunction with other channels, both digital and analog, seeking choice and a channel flexibility that gives them that. Communication is also driving connection. Messaging apps have surpassed social media apps, as people want to have conversations, and marketing needs to recognize this shift from transaction to interaction.
“Most marketers are still stuck in a multi-channel mentality,” Harder said. Instead, she explained, “Opti-channel is the idea of utilizing individual channels to bring out their specific benefits.” This connection point is an important part of rethinking ROI (Return On Investment). Instead of focusing so hard on return on investment, marketers should start trying to quantify their “Return On Involvement,” seeking to engage customers in experiences. Millennials, in particular, crave experiences over things. Marketers have a chance to curate both experiences and information for people in ways that provide true value.
“In an age of ‘infobesity,’ distilling information is a bigger challenge than obtaining it,” Harder said. “This is why direct mail can help distribute and distill information with a lot more of a person’s attention.” Also, direct mail avoids getting buried in an inbox deluge, like constant emails. She mentioned that 77% of consumers sort through direct mail as soon as they get it, and this once-a-day ritual is a regular event. Marketers need to realize how unique that opportunity is, along with the fact that direct mail outperforms all digital channels combined by 600%. Coupled with data and programmatic efforts (like mailings that mention the products left in a consumer’s abandoned online shopping cart). Even if the role of direct mail is changing, its power and reach is still very clear.