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The Evolution Of Direct Marketing

Direct Marketing

In the recent past, the position and relevance of direct marketing (DM); in the information age has been viewed as a 'dying' facet of the advertising industry. However, research and trends have proved that direct marketing will have an impact on the economic growth and lead the industry in one-to-one marketing. The industry has shown consistent growth over recent years and even grew during the recessionary 2009 as the line that divides 'above and below' communications moves aside making way for 'beyond the line'.

"The world is shifting. Consumers are shifting. Communications are shifting. There is now a huge opportunity for direct marketing and DM associations to take a leadership stance with these changes in the industry," says Christina Forsdyke, Strategic Planning Director of direct response agency, Wunderman SA.

Forsdyke believes that there are four key reasons why marketers need to take heed of this understated element of the marketing mix and look at opportunities to integrate it into campaigns that can deliver on impact.

Marketers no longer see initiatives in silos, as they are now being challenged to put together integrated marketing communication plans. They need to consider how one channel impacts the other, where their marketing budget is best allocated and how to make sense of it all. The good news is that the direct discipline is at the centre of integration.

DM has always been about finding the right solution to achieve the objective and considering various interlinked channels for effectiveness. Over and above this, we can lay claim to a fundamental understanding of human behaviour; how to drive it, measure it and how to optimise it, more than any other marketing discipline - all which is fundamental to an integrated approach.

Globally, the issue of marketing's accountably has grown tremendously. In a recent study marketers said they needed to measure the marketing effect. Forsdyke is of the opinion that, "DM's historical roots in measurement and accountability have a wider appeal than ever. This is not a problem at Wunderman as ROI and measurability is part of our DNA - it is something we have always done". Testing of channels, concepts and response mechanisms are part of what we do everyday and this is fundamental to optimising budgets and channels for optimum effectiveness.

Digital continues to grow in the South African market. These days most marketers are coming into briefing sessions asking first and foremost, "what can we do digitally?' The reality is that digital is a channel, not some phenomena but more importantly, digital is also direct. The early architects of DM have predicted the evolution of the industry and digital has become the technological fulfillment of those predictions.

Lester Wunderman, founder of the DM industry once said, "I knew what it could do and was viewing it as a technological miracle that could bring life to the kind of dreams I had about dialogues between consumers and advertisers".

The perception of sophisticated online marketers is that testing and optimisation, is unaffordable and too time consuming in the offline world. Enabled by powerful web tracking and analytical tools, marketers are seeing outstanding results by applying the old direct test and learn model online. Wunderman has developed the notion of After the Click' that brings together all of the legacy learnings of how to manage customer behaviour after they have clicked onto your site.

For DM, owning the digital arena and seeing it as an integral part of direct marketing is fundamental, because it is simply an extension of what we already do.

A Shift of Power/Consumers are in Control 
With the advent of technology, there has been a paradigm shift in the relationship between consumers and brands; consumers are now more in control than ever before. Previously, marketers could dictate and control their brand equity and message. "Wunderman, has redirected focus on the concept of CRM from Customer Relationship Management to the Customers Really Manage. Communication has changed from a one-way process to a dialogue, most often, initiated by the consumer. The consumer now has the power to choose the information he/she needs and we have taken the initiative to drive this process by changing our focus from the brand, to the consumer in relation to the brand. The best advice is to embrace the change", advises Fordsyke.

Brands need to be flexible, allow for engagement, have a sense of humour and not take themselves too seriously. This where the tenets of DM comes into play. The ability to interact with consumers and respond to them nimbly must be part of the approach and is something that DM do best. Debi Loftie-Eaton, Managing Director of Wunderman South Africa, says,"It is important to have impactful conversations with your consumer to build relationships with your consumers and direct marketers, better than any other discipline, play a major role in facilitating these conversations."

It is clear that DM is not only a 'current cost saving advertising channel'.  DM is alive and at the forefront of changes within the industry and will remain so for a long while. DM has proven to become a vital aspect in integration plans, motivated by the fact that processes and instruments for measurability are already part and parcel of DM. This is important for the longevity of the discipline, as measurability/accountability has become common practice.  Communication processes have changed as the use of media and technology has evolved. Consequently DM is and has become the vanguard of digital marketing. The power shift in brand and consumer relationships have been part of the factors influencing the resurgence of DM. Traditional marketing tools are no longer the preferred/main catalyst in influencing consumer behaviour. DM is the only communications tool, which is most relevant and applicable to the shift of power between brands and consumers.


Issue on behalf of:         
Wunderman SA
Michelle Cav', Group PR Director:
Young & Rubicam Brands SA
Tel: (+2711) 797 6318/00

Wunderman is the original architect of response-driven marketing, an estimated trillion dollar global industry. Today, with 50+ years of innovation, creativity, and insight, Wunderman stands as the first name in advertising that delivers measurable results. Throughout its network of 120+ offices in 50+ countries and 15+ specialized companies, Wunderman speaks the customer's language(whatever the dialect) at the right time, creating profitable conversations that build brands and generate sales.

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