Since the advent of email, digital marketing and all the disruption that’s come our way since, how one regards the term “direct marketing” is clearly in question.
Two weeks ago, Marketing EDGE bestowed a Lifetime Achievement Award at its inaugural EDGE Awards event in New York to Lester Wunderman, the data-driven advertising strategist and practitioner who founded the Wunderman agency and first coined the term “direct marketing” in the mid-1960s.
Recently, Mr. Wunderman told 1:1 Magazine:
“I predicted what’s been happening. We’re beginning to see mass production get more personalized. Also digital, where you have interactions between sellers and buyers, has really helped to change marketing. It used to be that advertising was about a brand. Now it’s about individuals and what they want and need and most likely want to buy, so we’re being much more efficient than we used to be. We used to invest in broadcast media. Now we’ve become much more personalized.
Easy access to information and personalization is happening because the whole world is digital and the ability to locate prospects and customers and readdress them over time makes advertising more specific. From a database, we can know what each customer is likely to buy. It’s what I call direct marketing and it’s really the manufacturer and the consumer now having a relationship on the Internet.”
So with referenda all the rage these days, I ask, “Do we, as data-driven marketers, remain in the ‘direct marketing’ camp or do we leave to something new?”
We’re seeing evidence of change everywhere:
- Marketing EDGE emerged from what once was the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation
- Its Journal of Direct Marketing years ago was renamed Journal of Interactive Marketing
- The Direct Marketing Idea eXchange is now simply Marketing Idea eXchange
- Direct Marketing Association now likes to be referred to simply as “DMA”
- Direct Marketing News is now simply “DMN”
Some here may argue no one is “leaving” direct marketing. We’re only recognizing that we’ve morphed into data-driven marketing, personalized marketing, accountable communications, digital, mobile, search and social — and the integration of these channels around the prospect or customer. While the “direct” nomenclature may encompass all this realm, many in the workforce — particularly digital natives — for whatever reason equate “direct marketing” with “direct mail” as if analytics never existed until Google came along.
The “stay” camp may actually be in some agreement with the other side: Yes, we’ve morphed, but all marketing is becoming direct (read, accountable and measurable) and if it isn’t, it ought to be or else we’re wasting client money.
Data from DMA shows that data-driven marketing is claiming an ever-larger slice of the ad spending pie, but it’s still not the whole pie: so we still have ways to go before “direct marketing” is indiscernible from the more general “marketing.” Until the day every creative is as comfortable with data as he or she is with pretty pictures and the big idea, we’re still a chasm away from uniting branding and data into one common cause. Until the day our data masters understand the art and skill of storytellers, we still need bridges and ambassadors between the two.
So do you vote to STAY or LEAVE — or should we just stop worrying about it, and be a bridge instead?