To Thank an Industry (or a Method of Marketing)

On Nov. 12, more than 300 colleagues in our field gathered at the Direct Marketing Club of New York’s 31st Silver Apples Gala. I am humbled to be a 2015 recipient.

On Nov. 12, more than 300 colleagues in our field gathered at the Direct Marketing Club of New York’s 31st Silver Apples Gala. I am humbled to be a 2015 recipient. Let me find a way to say “thank you” in this blog post — by prefacing these remarks with an echo from Direct Marketing Association Hall of Famers and industry advocates Pete Hoke and John Yeck, who would have corrected my headline: “Direct marketing is not an industry — it’s a method of marketing used by all industries.”

And so it is.

What a night to be honored, especially because the “Father of Direct Marketing” Lester Wunderman received a rare “Golden Apple.”

My Mom always dreamed I’d get a job hosting on QVC. Mom, you just never know, no one knows, just what’s next for Chet Dalzell. Instead, I wound up at DMA, Harte Hanks and Digital Advertising Alliance — plus freelancing for a host of DM leaders — and in this dynamo of a city, in this fascinating marketing discipline, I truly found a home.

When we look this year’s honorees, and the entirety of the Silver Apples honorees since 1985, these are movers and shakers in the marketing. These are people who have defined this business, exemplified leadership and shown us how to give back. They are my colleagues and my clients, they are our innovators and teachers. I am only around to amplify their messages.

I learned that in looking for a great job, you look for a great boss and a great client. I’ve had them all, in Jonah Gitlitz and Connie LaMotta (DMA), in Richard Hochhauser and Mitch Orfuss (Harte Hanks), in Lou Mastria (Digital Advertising Alliance) – and in marketing leaders such as Liz Kislik, Rick Witsell, JoAnne Dunn, Peg Kuman, George Wiedemann, Terri Bartlett and — of course — my blog editors at Target Marketing. Through these wonderful individuals, you wake up and realize that the best boss in the world is yourself.

There are plenty more I love and adore in my professional and personal life — and there’s no justice in trying to include them all by name. Instead, let me pass on a few pearls I’ve learned from them, and see if the necklace fits:

  • Get up every day and smile. Just being on the journey gives you gratitude. And with a smile, gratitude can be shared.
  • Think of everyone as an individual, and walk a mile in his shoes — and five miles in hers. Feel her joy and pain. See what life could be like.
  • Listen to that little boy or girl inside, every day — and act on what he or she has to say. When we were in kindergarten, we all raised our hands when the teacher asked if there was an artist in the room. Somehow, many of us forgot how to express ourselves creatively.
  • Patience, kindness and love wins the race. If you’re employing other means to get ahead, choose another race.
  • Live to learn — and be the dumbest person in the room. In other words, surround yourself with people who share their intelligence, and never stop asking them how and why. (Oh, and read The Economist.)
  • Standing still breeds crisis. Instead keep asking “what’s next?” And prepare.

To my New York family — from friends, to clients, to leaders in this field — I “thank you” for keeping me around. I love you and this life you’ve made possible, to which my own personal family says thank you, too.

Mr. Wunderman, look what we’ve done to your song.

Trolling the Internet With a ‘Dislike’ Button

As a public relations professional, I suppose I should be happy that Facebook is going to soon enable “dislikes” as much as “likes” — giving its account holders the capacity to rip on photos, posts, pages and other assets to which they wish to convey a negative sentiment quickly.

As a public relations professional, I suppose I should be happy that Facebook is going to soon enable “dislikes” as much as “likes” — giving its account holders the capacity to rip on photos, posts, pages and other assets to which they wish to convey a negative sentiment quickly. Such venting apparently is in demand, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg reported.

Helping brands keep likes more numerous than dislikes can require lots of public relations help. And where dislikes far outnumber likes, so the more. However, the best public relations may only help temporarily for any product or service that’s not up to par — you have to fix the product or service first.

To me, it’s concerning that the Facebook platform — a mostly “nice corner” of an otherwise diatribe-filled Internet — may go the way of sports, political and news site bulletin boards, where public comment sections always seemed to be polluted by bullies, trolls and hatemongers. It’s not as if trolls can’t already post “hater” messages now on Facebook. But don’t we have enough online garbage without Facebook further facilitating the frothy fray? Perhaps Facebook well knows that dislikes count the same as likes — so by enabling dislikes, they’ll be getting a whole bunch of engagement they’re otherwise missing out on.

Turn to marketing: By reducing any branded or non-branded digital post to a real-time popularity contest (likes v. dislikes), how do we inform the consumer marketplace in a constructive way? We probably don’t. I foresee “dislike bots” driving up the thumbs-down tally by anyone with a bone to pick. At least with the solo presence of the “like” button, Facebook users lend someone or some brand a tiny bit of affection. I believe the world could use of little more positive encouragement — we have enough of the other kind.

Thankfully, Facebook is not abandoning the like button. I just hope the trolls don’t get the upper hand, and do unnecessary damage.

Better yet, instead of sending me a simple like or dislike, choose from any number of emoticons. If feedback needs to be easy and icon-driven, then I’d rather have a full set of offered emotions to choose from, then just a thumb pointed one way or another.

The ‘Continuity’ of Subscription Marketing — Wow, It’s Everywhere!

Somewhere down the line, I missed the memo that “continuity clubs” is now a yesterday term and that “subscription marketing” is preferred. While some of us may recall “12 CDs for $.01” or may even today have a favorite product-of-the-month subscription, it seems marketing has fallen in love with subscriptions.

Somewhere down the line, I missed the memo that “continuity clubs” is now a yesterday term and that “subscription marketing” is preferred. While some of us may recall “12 CDs for $.01” or may even today have a favorite product-of-the-month subscription, it seems marketing has fallen in love with subscriptions.

Such was the topic of a recent Direct Marketing Club of New York luncheon — where featured representatives from the entirety of the “subscription ecosystem” shared their perspectives: Barry Blumenfield, BMI Fulfillment; Jim Fosina, Amora Coffee & Amora Tea; Robert Manger, Sandvik Publishing; Pattie Mercier, Vantiv; Craig Mirabella, EverBright Media; George Saul, Fosina Marketing — and serving as moderator, Stephanie Miller, TopRight.

It is truly astounding so many products can be “moved” by subscriptions — nail polish (Julip), underwear (FreshPair), software (Adobe), music streaming (Spotify, Apple), men’s designer wear (Trunk Club for Men), women’s shoes (Shoe Dazzle), cosmetics and personal care (Birchbox), buyers’ clubs (Amazon Prime), and dates (match.com) — just a few of the examples offered up, in addition to coffee/tea (Amora), and educational learning (EverBright Media and Sandvik Publishing) that were represented on the panel.

While the channels and the product mix have expanded, some tried-and-true maxims from the days of “book and music clubs” have not been lost, according to the panelists. They include:

  1. It’s all about the bond with the customer — how you differentiate your product and service to justify a continuing relationship and greater lifetime value.
  2. This is a direct marketing business — pay attention to marketing ROI in every detail, even when business is great, there could be warning signs of waste and cost in specific areas of marketing spend.
  3. The entirety of the customer experience needs to be looked after — from product development , to advertising, to ordering, to service (extending from self-service to contact centers), to fulfillment.
  4. Pay particularly close attention to such areas as technology and fulfillment: surprise and delight requires such focus.

While channel expansion has brought to the marketplace new realities:

  1. Does your brand have a “thumb stopping” moment? With more and more mobile engagement, subscription marketers must make it easy to stop the consumer, make her pause, and consider the product/service offer in a mobile moment.
  2. There is a role for every channel — but each channel has its own metrics to pay attention to. While the panelists were proprietary with details, the lifetime value of a customer acquired via email, direct mail, DRTV, website or mobile most likely is distinct from each other — and may have different attrition rates. You’ll need to manage these distinctions in the marketing mix.
  3. A payment processing partner is important. In any given year, millions of credit cards expire — and this will be even more prevalent as chip-enabled cards flow into the marketplace.
  4. “Bill me” invoicing — once a mainstay in the business — has practically disappeared altogether over the last five years — as consumers in general appear to have become more casual about not paying.

To say the least, this business model has expanded far beyond books, magazines and music — and it makes me wonder: What’s next?

The Biggest Threat to Our Business … Hovering and Heinous

In the world of fiscal policy – if there’s a public or private behavior that has a disagreeable effect, then government has a tool to move behavior to a desired effect: taxation.

If the world has too much global warming, then tax fossil fuels and carbon emissions.

If smoking causes cancer, then tax cigarettes.

If alcoholic consumption brings on social ills, then tax wine and spirits.

If the world is becoming more unequal, and the middle class is under threat, then tax wealth.

But if the world has too much economic activity … why would that not be only a good thing?

In the United States (and probably elsewhere), the trouble with taxation — unfortunately, moral judgments aside — is that it is used too often for another objective: simply feeding the government leviathan. Failure to curb public spending, excessive entitlements and inefficiencies result in public debt and harrowing deficits – and a need for government to raise revenue anywhere it can.

But what if raising those taxes works against an overwhelming public good — that of economic growth that spurs even more government revenue? What if jobs, sales, manufacturing, services, the business of business, were all under threat by such a move?

Shouldn’t such a tax proposal be rejected on first consideration? How could such a proposal ever be offered in the first place?

Say hello to today’s U.S. Congress. Right now, in key House and Senate committees that consider taxation, budget and appropriations, is an idea that would be nothing short of ruinous to advertising and marketing: the removal or reduction of tax deductibility for advertising expenses, or the amortization of those expenses over a long period of time, far beyond advertising’s more immediate and practical impact.

Just more than a century ago, the federal government enacted an advertising expense tax deduction – rightly understanding that advertising activity spurs economic growth. That in turn creates jobs, sales, tax revenue, and other beneficial effects that lead to a virtuous circle of positive effects. I congratulate our policymakers … of 1913. That decision literally helped create a golden era for advertising – which helped produce the world’s most successful economy ever known.