At a recent seminar I attended on “The Future of Marketing,” much of the conversation concerned how e-mail was going to “destroy” direct mail, how the Internet is “killing off ” television and other such parallel arguments. As I sat in the audience, however, I realized that while new media is succeeding, that doesn’t mean that old media must fail.
In the business world, change often means that there are more options and more complex choices, not that the old must fade away. As I’ve worked with a variety of clients over the past year, three realities about direct mail have hit home. The first is that it works. Despite being characterised as “junk mail,” properly developed and targeted direct mail campaigns can and do pay off.
The second is that the number of postal addresses available, and the number of tools on hand to sort and select those addresses, still dwarfs the number of usable e-mail addresses, especially if you limit yourself (as you should) to bona fide, doubleopt- in, can-spam-compliant e-mail Addresses.
The third aspect of direct mail that has struck me lately is perhaps the most important: direct mail works with some specific households that reject e-mail. There seems to be a specific segment of the population that’s good at deleting “unwanted” e-mails but is, simultaneously, a reasonable target for direct mail. So not only is direct mail effective, it’s also often the only option, and sometimes the best option. Just as some techno-promoters argue that direct mail is dead, others insist that television is dead — destined to be superseded by Internetdelivered video content. But examined more closely, this argument, too, is faulty.
According to a recent U.K. study that looked at TV and the Internet as advertising delivery media, there are specific ways to use TV and Internet advertising in tandem to make both work better. Specifically, if you advertise on TV first, you capture enough of a consumer’s attention so that if you then follow up with advertising on the Internet, the click-through and buy rates increase dramatically.
It turns out that TV is the best way to “soften up” prospects, while the Internet does a better job of making the indepth sale. The study’s most important conclusion, however, was that both media, used together in a smart sequence, significantly outperformed either medium as a stand-alone. An illustration of this finding in a retail grocery setting is the weekly circular. Over the past few years, the circular has been steadily shrinking in size. The challenge has been to pack as many savings, values and — let’s be frank – manufacturer dollars as possible into a smaller footprint. At the same time, a lot of chains have been experimenting with some Internet-based versions of the circular – posted on the site, delivered via e-mail, or both. Some observers have even suggested that the printed circular will eventually disappear, replaced by purely electronic Versions.
Despite this natural progression, there will always be three groups of consumers who need the printed circular, even if it’s only one page. First, there are some technology rejecters who will have no interest in an electronic circular, no matter how cool it is. Second, there are a significant number of consumers who just prefer their circular as ink and paper.
And third, there are a large number of consumers who will use the paper circular as a cue to obtain or look at the e-circular. Over time, the circular may get smaller and otherwise change, but will almost certainly continue to exist. The idea is to test all of the new options while simultaneously evolving the base circular into a vehicle that works maximally in conjunction with the new media.
This example plays itself out in a variety of other marketing approaches that grocery retailers use. The question isn’t when to transition from old technology to new, but rather how to use the new technology with the old technology to maximise total results.