San Diego Dreamin’ – Charging Through ‘The DMA’

The last time the Direct Marketing Association held its annual conference in San Diego, it was 2009, we were all amid The Great Recession, and having been recently thrown out of a job, money was just too tight to attend on my own. Since then, marketing has changed—a lot—and the U.S. economy overall is in better shape than it was. Folks, looking back, we avoided a Depression

The last time the Direct Marketing Association held its annual conference in San Diego, it was 2009, we were all amid The Great Recession, and having been recently thrown out of a job, money was just too tight to attend on my own. Since then, marketing has changed—a lot—and the U.S. economy overall is in better shape than it was. Folks, looking back, we avoided a Depression.

I endured, and so did DMA. It’s 2014: The conference offering is as good as ever, and there’s simply no better place in the world for data-driven marketers to gather, learn and exchange. While I might argue, all of marketing, and all of advertising, has become data-driven, let’s not forget that measurability and accountability had its historic home in direct marketing … going back to at least 1917. ROI lives here.

It’s always good to get to The DMA early, to support Marketing EDGE (note, a client) and its Annual Awards Dinner, this year honoring Michael Becker and Google. If you didn’t make it Saturday night, you can still contribute via Marketing EDGE’s first foray into social fundraising. Literally hundreds of thousands will be raised this quarter to help build a bridge from students to market-ready marketing professionals.

Come Monday (today), it’s full-on with the conference: and I won’t be missing Magic Johnson giving “Part 3” of the opening keynote, right after DMA Chairman JoAnne Dunn, CEO of Alliant, gives the association address (can’t recall when a DMA Chairman has taken on this role at the conference), with KBM Group, joining Shell and Air Canada, on “The Evolution of Engagement: The Modern Reality of One-to-One.”

I also can’t miss “Data-Driven Marketing Genius: Google, Xerox and a Foreign Film Festival”—the first-time actual International ECHO Award Winners (they don’t know what they’ve won yet) get a main stage to tell the story behind the marketing campaigns that “Wowed” this year’s ECHO judges (including me). Happy Halloween: I’m still shaking over that Horror Festival campaign.

And since I can’t wait ’til January for my “Downton Abbey” fix, I plan to listen in on “Big Data Helps Keep Downton Abbey Alive for its Fans,” which I’m hopeful gives insight on how a popular TV program gives public television more fundraising lift through brand engagement. I’m curious about the Big Data angle.

“What’s the role of the Agency?” seems to have captured a La Jolla wave. Sessions such as “The New Engagement Agency: A Real-Time Revolution,” and “Agency A-List: The Changing Face & Role of the Agency in 2015” speak to some of the digital disruption that is going on, while Brian Fetherstonhaugh of OgilvyOne Worldwide addresses “E-Commerce: The Crucible of Customer Engagement” (all the more interesting, given Ogilvy’s creation of a new analytics agency, OgilvyAmp.)

By the time Wednesday comes, I will be exhausted, inspired and ready to put some newly learned know-how to the test—and I hope to come home with new business contacts, too—but only after I catch a wave and a libation at the Coronado.

Are DMA Conference Exhibitors Reinventing, Too?

From 1987 to 2008, I had attended every DMA conference, always enjoying the experience of reconnecting with long-time associates, hearing presentations to continually learn, and meeting with vendors who might be good resources for clients. Last week I found myself looking at the conference through a different lens as I walked the exhibit hall to learn from the exhibitors.

It had been five years since I last attended a DMA annual conference. I decided to return last week. If there were a score card of how direct marketing service providers are reinventing what they sell to end-user companies, one measure of that could be taken from the exhibit hall.

From 1987 to 2008, I had attended every DMA conference, always enjoying the experience of reconnecting with long-time associates, hearing presentations to continually learn, and meeting with vendors who might be good resources for clients.

Last week I found myself looking at the conference through a different lens as I walked the exhibit hall to learn from the exhibitors.

The first thing that astounded me was the shrinkage of the exhibit hall. The program listed 241 exhibitors. While I don’t have access to the number of exhibitors from, say, a decade ago, it feels like it was about one-third the size that it used to be.

The second thing that struck me was the type of exhibitors who were there. I’d generally divide into one of three camps:

  1. Traditional direct marketing vendors, mostly supporting direct mail. The convention program listed 112 exhibitors self-identified as in the Direct Mail and Print Services category. Add in some of the dozens of firms supporting Data Management (who weren’t already listed under Direct Mail and Print Services) and easily over half—perhaps two-thirds—of the exhibitors supported traditional direct mail marketing channels.
  2. Technology companies offering online services to direct marketers accounted for a significant representation as well. An exact count is difficult to infer because of vendors listing themselves under multiple categories including Affiliate Marketing, Content, E-commerce, Mobile, Online Advertising, Real-Time Automated Technologies, Search and Social, but the representation was strong. These are firms that, in my opinion, generally did a poor job of communicating how they support direct marketers. As I spoke to several of them, they glowed over their technology but didn’t connect their technology to how it would generate response. It feels like they want to attract business from direct marketers, but they don’t speak our language. Many technology companies seem to be in love with their buzz words on their booths, but failed to give the passer-by any clue of what their technology would do for me to build sales. At the expansive exhibit of one of the most recognized software companies in America, I quickly spotted three typographical errors on their big screens. Their exhibit booth staff was also the least friendly and willing to explain what they offer direct marketers.
  3. Vendors that effectively blended offline and online. Only a few exhibitors, it seemed, truly attempted to be a one-stop shop where offline could be linked with online media. Those exhibitors were the ones doing business at the conference. They were the ones who were the most positive about returning next year. In one case, a long-time DMA conference exhibitor who has reinvented his service offerings, said last week’s conference was the best ever for them. This traditional direct mail services provider had teamed up with a technology firm so their booth felt like two spaces, but they seamlessly referred clients to each other. More importantly, they linked online technology with the ability to use direct mail for specialized messaging.

It appears there is work to be done by many vendors to update their services to keep up with what direct marketers must do to survive. And technology companies have a lot of work to do to understand the nuances of direct marketing. For vendors who want to grow and prosper in this field, if they haven’t already, they need to reinvent just like the direct marketing customers who they want to serve.

Irrational Customers and 2013’s Tip Top Marketing Campaign

Exhale, just landed from a jam-packed Direct Marketing Association DMA13 conference … You have to hand it to New Zealanders. For two years’ running, that nation’s marketing practitioners have nailed a Diamond ECHO from the Direct Marketing Association’s International ECHO Awards, which were presented last week during DMA13, the association’s annual conference in Chicago.

Exhale, just landed from a jam-packed Direct Marketing Association DMA13 conference

New Zealanders are Diamond
You have to hand it to New Zealanders. For two years’ running, that nation’s marketing practitioners have nailed a Diamond ECHO from the Direct Marketing Association’s International ECHO Awards, which were presented last week during DMA13, the association’s annual conference in Chicago.

This year’s top data-driven marketing campaign in the world was for ice cream maker Tip Top (Fonterra Brands Ltd), in a campaign created by Colenso BBDO/Proximity New Zealand called “Feel Tip Top.” According to the ECHO Award entry:

A 75-year-old local ice cream brand in New Zealand aimed to regain relevance and brand momentum using customer experience. New Zealanders flocked to Facebook for the opportunity to nominate friends, family members or colleagues to receive a personally addressed, hand-delivered ice cream. By encouraging folks to ‘feel tip-top’ and indulge in a sweet treat and fond memory with friends, Tip Top highlighted new flavors and sub-brands, exceeded its nomination goal by more than fifteen-fold, and turned around a 17.6 percent decline into 16.7 percent growth across all categories.

I guess I ought to “like” Tip Top on Facebook.

Solidifying DMA’s Books
During the Annual Business Meeting of the association, it was announced that DMA has streamlined and simplified its annual dues structure into six tiers—from less than $800 on the low end (startups, consultants and the like) up to $75,000 for US and global direct marketing leaders. DMA generated $22.5 million in revenue last year, compared to $20.7 million in expenses.

While at the Annual Business Meeting, President & CEO Linda Woolley spoke to the recently approved Strategic Plan of the association, where she reported advocacy, networking and compliance services are the three areas of focus for association activity in the year ahead. DMA recently (in late May) launched a DMA Litigation Center, which will look to help businesses cope with privacy litigation, and to fight patent abuse, among other legal issues. Outgoing DMA Chairman Matt Blumberg, CEO & chairman of ReturnPath, also announced that the new DMA Chairman for 2013-2015 (a two-year term) is Alliant President & CEO JoAnne Monfradi Dunn (congratulations to my client), who told members she plans to serve as an ambassador between DMA’s management and its members.

(Ir)rational Consumers
Dan Ariely, in a keynote session sponsored by The Wilde Agency, gave case after case where consumers were seen to act irrationally, and that marketers can influence outcomes (and response) markedly by designing and testing creative offers and incentives. One of my favorites was the offer by The Economist (I’m an avid reader) where potential subscribers were offered $125 for the print magazine, and $59 for an online-only magazine, and the online-only offer won. But when a third option was added—$125 for both the print & online magazine—that option was the clear winner.

When an insurance company wanted to sell life insurance policies, and try to convince persons to upgrade, it tried repeatedly to sell in copy the benefits of more coverage—but with little access. When it decided to include a chart that clearly showed the higher amounts of coverage available—that the consumer was foregoing at his or her existing amount of coverage—well, it resulted in a 500 percent lift. My takeaways: always test, find a clever way to visualize data and offers, and always expect the irrational as much as the rational. “Standards Economics are not the same as Behavioral Economics,” he said. Indeed.

Well, that was just from two page of notes from the conference—I’m still dissecting a dozen more sessions. I have to say, this was the first conference in many years where I was accompanied by a “newbie,” a practitioner on the brand side making her first DMA appearance. She had a lot to complain about—there were way too many great sessions on offer at the same time, and we tag-teamed a bit to cover them simultaneously where we could. I think next year, she’ll be bringing some of her colleagues.

Mark your calendar for San Diego for the last week of October 2014.

Consumer Reports Nets DMA ECHO Green Marketing Award 2011: Lessons for Every Marketer

One of the highlights of the Direct Marketing Association’s 2011 annual conference was the awarding of a special ECHO award to Consumer Reports, the organization behind the magazine of the same name. As a member of DMA’s Committee on the Environment and Social Responsibility (CESR), I was one of the judges of this year’s competition, which looks to honor one marketing organization that has demonstrated environmental performance and sustainable practices in the design and execution of an advertising campaign.

One of the highlights of the Direct Marketing Association’s 2011 annual conference was the awarding of a special ECHO award—the ECHO Green Marketing Award—to Consumer Reports, the organization behind the magazine of the same name. As a member of DMA’s Committee on the Environment and Social Responsibility (CESR), I was one of the judges of this year’s competition, which looks to honor one marketing organization that has demonstrated environmental performance and sustainable practices in the design and execution of an advertising campaign.

What makes the Consumer Reports entry remarkable is its demonstrated adherence to a set of environmental principles and practices known as the DMA “Green 15.” Established by DMA in 2009, the DMA Green 15 provides guidance to marketers on list hygiene and data management, paper procurement, printing and production, and recycling and workplace operations—all in an effort to support the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.

The campaign itself was a recent subscription offer for Consumer Reports and ShopSmart magazines. The campaign did not sell an environmental product. It did not tout environmental claims. It did not involve environmental causes. Yet it won our discipline’s highest environmental marketing honor. Why? Because the campaign incorporated environmental sensitivity, efficiencies, and cross-company and supply chain engagement into everyday marketing planning and decision-making.

In short, the Consumer Reports effort is a blueprint that all marketers—commercial and non-profit—can replicate in their own everyday marketing.

Consider this excerpt from the entry:

We produced the Winter 2010/11 direct marketing campaign with the goal of strategically supporting the sustainability objectives of meeting our acquisition targets, serving the ongoing needs of consumers, and of being good stewards of the resources we use. Direct Marketing and Publishing Operations departments worked collaboratively guided by our internal Environmental Policy & Vision Statement to identify, implement, and track meaningful environmental choices made throughout the life cycle of the campaign season.

The overall environmental benefits of the choices we made included less energy and materials consumption, more benign manufacturing, and reduced emissions. Additionally, we promoted recycling of direct marketing packages that are recyclable, saved money, upheld response rates, and met our objectives.

The full entry incorporated actions that the Consumer Reports vendors undertook to increase efficiencies and environmental performance, as well as documented gains in paper procurement and use, mail design and production, and recycling and pollution reduction—all with measurements that document positive environmental impacts while achieving financial objectives.

I encourage all marketers to look to the example of Consumer Reports and its adherence to the DMA Green 15. In fact, the long-term sustainability of direct marketing depends on it.

Resources:
Direct Marketing Association’s Green 15 Toolkit for Marketers

With Special Permission, This Year’s DMA International ECHO Green Marketing Award Winner, Consumer Reports.

Editor’s Note: As of Autumn 2011, ConsumersUnion is newly rebranded as Consumer Reports.