Back to the Future: The New Realities of Successful Direct Marketing, Forecast Five Decades Ago


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One of my business heroes is direct marketing pioneer, adman Les Wunderman. In the late 1960’s, speaking about the future of interactive media, customer relationships and experiences, he predicted many of the realities and challenges we are seeing today. The past decade has brought profound changes to consumer decision-making and approaches to customer experience and marketing. Significant advances in communication technology are, at the same time, impacting direct marketers – and, all marketers and enterprises, truth to tell – in a big way. Marketers have to adjust their budgeting, relationship building, omnichannel influence and personalization methods, “Big Data” generation, analytics and microsegmentation—all while attempting to hit the moving target that is their continuously transitioning customer base.

These include:

• Mobile marketing, direct response design and execution – Though younger consumers have led the way, mobile communications methods are now a ‘must” for every marketer, as their targeting becomes hyper-local and hyper-timely

• Emotional and relationship drivers, even in B-to-B – It’s no longer just about functional and rational elements of customer value. We’re now seeing a return to, and greater emphasis on, neuromarketing.

• Accurate, real-world performance metrics – Customer satisfaction is an ’80’s, minimally actionable measure, and most loyalty indices, and metrics like NPS, CES and other simplified scores have serious granular application challenges. Marketers must ask: What works? What monetizes?

• Downstream behavioral power of customer experience and brand reputation/image – Along with the recognized impact of customer experience touchpoints, company/brand equity and image are now as important in driving behavior as customer features.

• Customer collaboration, social dialogue and content development – Today, customers have lower trust, and resulting reduced loyalty behavior, levels if they are not included in message, product, service, and process development

• Testing, modeling and analysis – In a simpler time, marketers were principally doing A/B message and content testing, if any testing was going on at all. Some companies still practice minimal testing, relying on conventional wisdom and unwilling to stray beyond the basic; but the trend is toward greater accuracy coming from application of multivariate testing techniques, and the more actionable analyses this yields.

• Blending traditional and new marketing techniques for great effectiveness – While there is rightly lots of focus on the impact of online and mobile social media, and how it can be leveraged, offline informal communication remains the stronger driver of customer decision-making behavior. Like skilled chefs, marketers need to learn the combined art and science of blending established print and electronic media and messages with what is floating in the cloud, which will most resonate with consumers.

The developments in direct marketing are incredibly important to all organizations, irrespective of size or industry. Through Target Marketing magazine, I will be presenting a webinar on this subject on August 22nd. Here is a link to the invitation:

As an accompaniment to the webinar presentation deck, I’ve also recorded a series of Videos: The first was an introduction; and here is the second one where I get into more detail regarding some of the changes seen in the past decade: Look for several more – addressing analytics, media, and customer behaivor – in succeeding weeks

Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC
Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC, specializes in customer and employee experience research/strategy consulting, and brand, customer, and employee commitment and advocacy behavior research, consulting, and training. He has authored seven stakeholder-centric strategy books and 400+ articles, white papers and blogs. In 2018, he was named to CustomerThink's Hall of Fame.


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