Social Commentary in Authentic Brand Messaging

Should brands act, behave and communicate like people? Authenticity must be the measure. The content of any social commentary needs to be driven from the core principles of what the brand stands for — rather than from a cookie-cutter response at what competitors may be doing or saying.

Should brands act, behave, and communicate like people?

I’m sick and angry. It may seem like 1968 this past week — but folks, it’s 2020. Can’t we have a generation raised that eschews privilege based on race, and just respects each individual, all individuals, with love and merit as our default?

Obviously this is a personal perspective, and thank you for allowing me to indulge. So let me also ask again: Can and should brands make such statements of their own?

Content: Getting Past the Predictable to the Unique

This past week, I was fortunate to listen in on a Direct Marketing Club of New York “midweek recharge” teleconference on COVID-19 and brand loyalty, led by current DMCNY President Ginger Conlon and Deb Gabor, principal and founder of Sol Marketing (Austin, TX). How ironic that our inboxes are filled with “We’re all in this together” type messages from brands, while this past week we’re also very much reminded that, in reality, we really are not all in this together. People of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, just as they are with police brutality and a host of other societal aspects.

Gabor was insistent that brands very much act like people — and should. Authenticity must be the measure, however, in what they have to say, she reported. The content of such messages needs to be driven from the core principles of what the brand stands for, rather than from a cookie-cutter response at what competitors may be doing or saying.

With regard to COVID-19, one might think of ways brands could communicate to customers about how they are protected when doing business with the brand. But is this the best, first message?

Perhaps, a more important constituency might come first: how these messages are stronger when they focus on employee well-being and a thankfulness for first-responders and essential workers. I duly appreciate Wal-Mart and Amazon brands for emphasizing these aspects in their current advertising and marketing. Certainly, these brands are not without vulnerability. There’s much attention on such brands regarding living wages and labor participation in the management of their business strategies, even as they hire thousands of workers amid this employment crisis.

Unique Statements Anchored in Core Values and Empathy

We cannot forget about empathy, and how this must be part of any brand social commentary regarding race, gender, sexual identity, or housing and economic status. As Americans, we need to draw a line anywhere where discrimination and hate, ambivalence or indifference, rears its ugly head. Ben & Jerry clearly shows where it stands on Black Lives Matters, and minces no words:

Even in the world of ad tech, we’ve seen some powerful statements, such as this one from San Francisco-based TechSoup, a company which offers software solutions in the philanthropy community, and is putting its resources to work. In an email, CEO Rebecca Masisak and Chief Community Impact Officer Marnie Webb co-wrote:

We need more than the reallocation of resources; we need systems changed. We need to be a part of that, in our organization, in our communities, and in our country.

This is what we are doing right now to address a piece of the crisis in the U.S.:

• Continue to investigate our own privilege so that we can embed racial equity into our work.

• Make the reach of our platforms available for the voices that need to be heard. Right now, at this moment, that means:

• Active listening

• Amplifying the messages of Black-led community organizations, philanthropists, and journalists

• Inviting others who want to make use of our platform to use it to share their messages and engage others in communication

• Raise money to defray the costs and support the optimization of technology for Black-led organizations and community groups.

Brands and Support for Democracy

Among trade associations, cheers, too, for the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) for enabling its employees this week to dedicate paid time off each month to work for social change:

These brands are indeed acting like people — because they are composed of people (investors, owners, customers, employees) who are motivated to share their values in a powerful way. Not every brand may be in a position to speak on racial injustice, or COVID-19, with authenticity. But we — as members of the human race — might best stand for each other. What other choice do good folks, and good brands, have?

 

2020: A Big Year for Media Spend Will Underscore Data’s Role in Marketing Strategy

With the longest U.S. economic growth span on record, one might think the wheels may be about to come off of the economy — and marketing spend along with it. Not so, says Bruce Biegel, senior marketing partner at The Winterberry Group, during his annual forecast about marketing strategy.

It is the best of times.

With the longest U.S. economic growth span on record, one might think the wheels may be about to come off of the economy — and marketing spend along with it. Not so, says Bruce Biegel, senior marketing partner at The Winterberry Group, during his Direct Marketing Club of New York annual presentation, “The Outlook for Data Driven Advertising & Marketing 2020.”

marketing strategy
Source: Winterberry Group (2020), with Permission | Credit: Winterberry Group

Sure, there is caution. The Great Recession displaced many — and served to accelerate digital disruption from retail to finance to certainly marketing, forever. Perhaps businesses have never felt safe, sound, and secure ever since. One might call it “wise agitation.” And it really has been consumer spending that has served as the primary driver of growth, particularly in 2019.

Not the R Word …

Outside of business caution and flat earnings, where are the signs of another recession? They are hard to find.

Inflation and wage growth are hardly sputtering — even as the nation’s unemployment rates are at record lows. Trade rows and impeachment proceedings only appear to buoy the stock market. Even inside the world of marketing, privacy restrictions have not diminished the luster of data deployed for marketing and insight. And with the Olympics and a General Election this year, it should be times aplenty for many media channels, agencies, data providers, and tech companies — as these events are traditional hallmarks of spending.

So who are some of the winners in the current marketing and media environment?

… But plenty of D, Even Still

D, as in Direct: Biegel noted that “Buy Direct” is creating continuous rise and sale in DTC [direct to consumer] brands. The subscription economy is booming and traditional distribution channels — read, retail — continue with a “D” of their own, “disintermediation.”

“The five-year growth (through 2019) of DTC retail is four times that of the retail market revenues — 7.64% growth vs. 1.78%,” he reports.

That doesn’t translate to digital-first success, however, as such approaches are not scaling as rising costs in paid social, for example, are inhibiting customer acquisition.

marketing strategy
Source: Winterberry Group Spend Estimates (2020)

D, as in Digital: Online media spending overall grew by 19.1% in 2019 — compared with a 5.9% decline in offline media spending for the same year. Among all digital media categories in 2019, paid search grabbed the largest share — followed by display and paid social. Yet search spending “only” grew by 13.2%, compared to 21% growth for display, and 23% growth for paid social. For 2020, online media spending will continue to climb — reaching $166.4 billion in spending, while offline media will reverse its decline and post a 2.3% climb this year (remember, Olympics and Elections) to $223.1 billion.

D, as in Data: Data spending also posted healthful growth in 2019 — up by 5% — with another 6.2% growth expected in 2020. Is data working harder for marketers — as in, increasing marketing efficiency? Possibly. Spending on offline data dropped 5.5% in 2019 — while spending on email data and analytics posted 22.4% growth, and spending on digital media data and analytics (other than email) grew by 14.4%. Yet businesses are wholly satisfied with their own level of “data-centricity.” Biegel says, “Organizations are slightly more ‘data-centric’ this year than when asked in 2017 — on the whole, industry data-centricity is not progressing as envisioned.”

marketing strategy
Source: IAB-Winterberry Group Data-Centric Org (2020)

What’s Driving Data Strategy at Businesses?

Beigel reports three primary facilitators:

  • A desire to deliver better customer experiences;
  • Heightened regulatory compliance requirements and need to honor consumer preferences; and,
  • Increased demand to better leverage both first- and third-party data assets.

With a data-for-marketing marketplace in the United States now valued — both offline and online —- at $23 billion, those are three very important drivers that marketing professionals needs to get right. Or else our C-suite credibility may be diminished.

Artificial intelligence also has benefited from this reverence for data. Beigel reports that $11 billion has been invested globally in AI in the past five years — with 80% of marketers seeing AI “revolutionize” marketing in the next five years. Much of this investment is set on drawing insights from both structured and unstructured data sources.

And Where Are There Lingering Concerns?

Besides enterprise command of data assets, which could go either superbly or not, there are other concerns — both macro and micro, Biegel reports.

U.S. economic growth will likely slow to 1.9%, with global growth at pronounced risk. Corporate earnings may disappoint — leading to tightened purse strings. Tariffs may be reduced – nation by nation, region by region — but to what immediate impact? In short, Biegel says, “Limited tailwinds indicate that growth must be earned or bought.”

Among offline media there will be pockets of growth — outdoor, shopper marketing, linear and addressable TV — though direct mail will only squeak growth, with radio, newspaper, and magazines continuing their declines (even as their digital counterparts grow).

Search, display, and social will continue to dominate online media spend — but less mature channels, such as influencer marketing, digital video, and OTT [over-the-top] streaming, and digital audio will post rapid growth from much smaller bases. That portends good times for online data — but is it all rosy?

marketing strategy
Source: Winterberry Group Spend Estimates (2020)

For example, are customer acquisition and retention costs, though, declining in these channels? It may be that media inflation will eat into marketing efficiency, particularly if “targeting” data gets less precise and, as a result, relevance gets more elusive. Privacy restrictions, while well-meaning, are not always implemented in such a way that serve best consumers. Still, only 16% of businesses have reduced their spending and reliance on certain kinds of data as a result of new and potential data privacy regulations, Biegel reports.

So, come December 2020, will all of these predictions and concerns bear out? That’s one of the reasons I attend Bruce Biegel’s Annual Outlook at DMCNY each year. As great a prognosticator as he is and as on-target as his business, data, and economic models are — he’s always close enough to the market to say where struggles remain, where the work of data-driven marketing is hard, where hiccups happen, and the like. These are all of the many micro and macro reasons that any best of times can go awry.

His January 2020 predictions are now in the books — and we will all be back again in January 2021 — barring any hiccups.

Marketing Pros Provide Advice for Peers

When marketing pros provide advice, marketing practitioners listen. One of the high points of the New York marketing community calendar each year is the Silver Apple Gala hosted by the Direct Marketing Club of New York. The fete toasts the business and industry leadership success of honored individuals.

When marketing pros provide advice, marketing practitioners listen. One of the high points of the New York marketing community calendar each year is the Silver Apple Gala hosted by the Direct Marketing Club of New York. The fete, held this year on Nov. 7 near Times Square, toasts the business and industry leadership success of honored individuals, and at least one corporation or organization.

Each “Silver Apple” recipient has contributed for 25 or more years to our field, and since 1985, there have been 248 such honorees, including these four individuals in 2019:

Marketing, Career Wisdom They Share

So when more than 200 of your friends, family, and peers come together, what pearls of wisdom do you have to share?

Carl Horton, IBM

“The ability to execute against the dream in real time,” is what excites Carl Horton, Jr., in his current position in B2B marketing at IBM. Horton credits colleagues who have placed “personal investments in me” and dared to let him take crazy ideas (artificial intelligence applications don’t seem so crazy today) and make them reality, as well as the unconditional love of family.

One key takeaway from Horton:

“The importance of diversity in leadership and innovation: The NextGen of innovation may come from someone of experience, income, race, gender, gender identity, very different from our own.”

Here, here, we need to foster it.

Britt Vatne, ALC

Britt Vatne, who leads the data management practice at ALC, talked about a career pivot 15 years ago, when she worked with a nonprofit client for the first time, March of Dimes, and it showed to her how critical acquiring, retaining, and growing donors are. She also credited industry luminaries, such as the late Bob Castle and the energetic Donn Rappaport (in the room) – as well as her father, who came to America from Norway, never finished primary school, and taught her “there is no substitute for hard work.” She was the first of her family to go to college.

“Being human, being respectful, and having integrity are non-negotiable,” she said. “Be a positive role model, and you’ll have the love and loyalty of family.”

And probably, quite a few colleagues and clients, too.

Joe Pych, NextMark & Bionic Advertising

Joe Pych, who is the startup founder of two companies — NextMark and Bionic Advertising, says his “go-to metric is sales growth.” CRM [customer relationship management] is so much more of an opportunity than simply managing costs, he says. Set a goal, uncover an idea, execute, and measure results.

”I feel selfish standing alone with so much support I’ve received over the years,” he said, referring first to his mother, who put four children through college on an electrician’s salary – and then went and got a masters herself.

He also thanked many of his client data businesses that helped make his first company take off — companies, such as MeritDirect, ALC, Worlddata, and Specialists Marketing Services (SMS), among others – who took a chance on a Hanover, NH-based enterprise. To his wife, Robin.

“Those missed vacations, I’m sorry … again.”

Gretchen Littlefield, Moore DM Group

Gretchen Littlefield, CEO of Moore DM Group for the past two years, also served at Infogroup for 14 years, where she helped develop its nonprofit, political, and federal government marketing practice – which propelled her into her current role atop Moore.

In 2018, she co-founded the Nonprofit Alliance, where she serves as vice chair, to advance in Washington the interests of nonprofit and charitable organizations.

“I fell into this business like everyone else,” she said, starting from data entry and advancing to “getting data [insights] out of the industry.”

She thanked many industry leaders among her mentors and influencers, among them Jim Moore, Larry May, and Vin Gupta.

“It seems as if on every innovation, we are working together and competing all the time. Coopetition,” she said. “The flow of data – from list rentals, to coops, to marketing clouds. We share data for growth.”

Littlefield also emphasized investment in education, citing Marketing EDGE and Direct Marketing Club of New York, for their respective roles in attracting bright students to the marketing field.

“Time goes by faster than we expect — Joe [Pych] and I were Marketing EDGE Rising Stars back in the day. I’m just as excited today as my first day in direct marketing, but mostly grateful for the friendships.”

In addition, there were three special honors bestowed, among them a first-time “Corporate Golden Apple” to Marketing EDGE for its more than half-century of creating and connecting market-ready college students for careers in marketing. And two Excellence Apples:

  • 2019 Apple of Excellence, Advocacy:
    Tony Hadley, SVP, Regulation and Public Policy, Experian (Washington, DC)
  • 2019 Apple of Excellence Disruptor:
    Mayur Gupta, CMO, Freshly (New York, NY)

There’s more to share – but that likely will be another post! Stay tuned …

Were Publishers the First DTC Brands? How 2 Areas of Marketing Align

DTC brands are hot entities. Practically any consumer product can be translated to a paid subscription business model. As a direct result, circulation and subscription marketing professionals have become very attractive new hires to the growing bevy of direct-to-consumer brands.

DTC brands are hot entities. Practically any consumer product can be translated to a paid subscription business model.

As a direct result, circulation and subscription marketing professionals — a mainstay of the direct marketing discipline for decades — have become very attractive new hires to the growing bevy of direct-to-consumer brands. In reverse, too — publishers are enriching their content offerings for their customers in service to them, acting as DTC brands, themselves.

That was a main thrust at a recent joint meeting of the Direct Marketing Club of New York and The Media and Content Marketing Association. The joint meeting, titled “What DTC Brands and Publishers Can Learn from Each Other in Today’s Subscription Economy,” allowed publishers to exchange ideas with DTC brand reps and others.

DTC brands meeting
Source: DMCNY, Twitter @dmcny | Direct-to-Consumer Brands, Publishers and their Admirers exchange perspectives around customer value and experiences.

“Magazines are the original DTC,” said Mike Schanbacher, director of growth marketing at Quip, a subscription business for toothbrushes and dental care,. He noted that traditional circulation metrics, such as lifetime value and churn rates, very much factor in the business and marketing plans of a subscription commerce company.

Alec Casey, CMO of Trusted Media Brands Inc. (TMBI, which manages 13 brands, among them Reader’s Digest), described how his business continually explores expansion of product and content — to books, book series, music and video — and potentially podcasts and subscriber boxes.

“We are always DTC,” he said, meaning that customers’ interests drive every brand extension in the company.

Data can reveal interesting patterns, he noted. Visitors to Family Handyman digital content is 50% men, 50% women, for example, while print content is dominated by men.

DTC Is High-Speed

One hallmark of the newest DTC brands is velocity.

“When bananas and avocados are sitting in the warehouse beneath you, there’s urgency,” said Tammy Barentson, CMO of Fresh Direct, who previously had had a lengthy career in publishing with Time, Meredith, Hearst, and Conde Nast. Innovations are sought for and tested constantly … and rapidly: “There’s a mindset here … ‘That bombed. What did we learn?’’ ” she said, which is a marked change from her previous publishing posts, where testing was more considered.

Barentson also noted that the Fresh Direct executive team meets every morning to listen in collectively on each department’s dashboard of metrics — and that can inspire action.

“There’s a lot I can learn from operations and customer service data,” she said. “For example, how many deliveries are made per hour might tell me geographies where I might focus more customer acquisition.” Her own team pores through subscription data — who orders groceries one, two or three times a week, or just for special events — “how do we bring them up the food chain?” she quipped.

One of the first publishers to capitalize on digital was Forbes and Forbes.com, said Nina LaFrance, who is Forbes’ lead for consumer marketing and business development. Today, the corporation’s digital sites generate 80 million unique visits per month — but it’s the drill-down on the data that is perhaps the most exciting, enabling Forbes to help advertisers connect with customers across print, digital, programmatic display, brand voice, social channels, live events, apps, webinars, and more. Forbes has its own in-house studio to help brands develop content for marketing across the portfolio.

“We adapt and embrace,” LaFrance said, responding to the all the challenges and opportunities presented to publishers and DTC brands alike — issues, such as coping with “walled gardens,” tech giants, privacy laws, data restrictions and regulations, and the Cookie Apocalypse.

Communities Are Sticky

A common theme expressed by the panel was the desire to create a sense of “membership” and “community” — going beyond the transaction to create “stickiness.” That’s where content development matters. “

At Quib, we try and give a membership feel,” Schanbacher said. “Data is the goal,” noting the better consumer understanding and insights that come from content engagement, data collection, and analysis.

However, not every piece of content translates equally to profit, LaFrance reports.

“Visitors to our home page, or who respond to direct mail, may be more profitable to us than those who link to an article from a social post,” she says — and the ability to measure that customer value across channels is a success, in its own right.

Which is probably the most valuable insight of all. These professionals — DTC brands and publishers — revere how data serves, bolsters, and builds the customer relationship, and they have all pursued a shared culture for measurement, insight, and application to build the brands, build the business, and connect to consumer experience. As subscription commerce grows — it has doubled in the past five years — we know how invaluable such data reverence can be.

How I Cut the Cord and Learned to Love OTT

Just how many months — no, years — does it take for a logical, clear-headed, money-conscious, well-informed consumer to overcome inertia, cut the cord in his home television habits, and move to OTT?

Just how many months — no, years — does it take for a logical, clear-headed, money-conscious, well-informed consumer to overcome inertia, cut the cord in his home television habits, and move to OTT?

I’ll let you know when it happens.

Yes, I’m one of those Americans — a dwindling number, but we’re still a force. Being charged a couple hundred dollars every month with our stripped-down, no add-ons triple-play (phone/TV/Internet) packages, because there’s no cable competition (in my building) and Spectrum knows it. We don’t even have access to Verizon or AT&T, or RCN, either. Such a dilemma.

Thank goodness for Mom and Dad. They don’t pay my bills. But they donated to me their Roku device when they upgraded their own TV sets. They also added me to their Netflix account as a gift, and now my viewing habits — finally — are changing. Scheduled television via cable at home is clearly on the wane. On linear TV via cable, I watch local news and live sports, mostly — and even some of that I can stream.

As stuck as I am in my ways … I’m about to go bold. And do the deed. Snip! (Well, we’ll see.)

In the meantime, advanced television is clearly on the rise.

“Ad spend on over-the-top (OTT) streaming video will increase 20% this year to $2.6 billion, according to a Winterberry Group study of U.S. ad spend data,” reports eMarketer. “Despite OTT’s surge, it’s still small — compared with the $69.2 billion that Winterberry Group estimates U.S. advertisers will spend on linear TV. For some advertisers, measurement challenges prevent them from investing more in OTT.”

A recent Direct Marketing Club of New York program included a panel of experts who parsed some of the challenges. With OTT, you have two worlds colliding — traditional television and traditional digital — and the user (me) has an expectation that online video, if I’m to watch it as programming, had best carry the quality of linear television. I even want my online video advertisements — hey, it’s ad-financed content on many platforms — to carry the quality of a TV ad, rather than a GIF. Still, I’m open to new ad formats here — I’m starting to enjoy 6-second ads, thanks to digital training. And I’m actively searching and browsing, often on a second device concurrently, some of it prompted by content and ads.

We Need Industry Standards …

What metrics matter to whom? Audience reach and eyeballs may coo the traditional TV media buyer (and seller), who simply wants those same or similar metrics digitally. And that may be fine for CMOs who live and breathe “passive” awareness, but addressable television’s real prize is data: user data, dwell time — and demographics — that shed light on a brand’s customers, one device or cross-device, and one view or continued view (start viewing a program on one device, and finish viewing on another) at a time. Here, “active” engagement metrics matter, such as clickthroughs, conversions, and attribution. These data drive the algorithms that target and tailor the advertising.

And remember the Big Data “ouch” when mobile, social, and local users flooded the market? Same goes here: “Data is overabundant, non-standardized, and non-harmonious,” said one panelist. We need to codify, standardize, and become screen-agnostic in our reporting. Certainly, people expect viewing on a TV to be different than viewing on a smartphone. Marketers need to know device use metrics to see how ad delivery may need to differ. Yet the user metrics do need to be agnostic — audience and engagement metrics need to be settled upon for the marketplace to trust, verify, and grow. That’s because in OTT and Advanced Television, “data is the most important ROI.”

I didn’t have to finish my blog at any particular time today — thanks to TV on demand, anywhere. Oh wait a minute, I gotta shut my laptop: the season finale of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” starts in 10 minutes, and I’ve been looking forward to it for two weeks! Inertia, indeed.

Media Outlook 2019: Spell Marketing with a ‘D’

The January marketing calendar in New York has included for the past decade or so a certain can’t-miss event of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. In 60 fly-by minutes, 100-plus advertising and marketing professionals hear a review of the previous year in marketing spend, a media outlook for the current year and macro-economic trends driving both.

The January marketing calendar in New York has included for the past decade or so a certain can’t-miss event of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. In 60 fly-by minutes, 100-plus advertising and marketing professionals hear a review of the previous year in marketing spend, a media outlook for the current year and macro-economic trends driving both.

Bruce Biegel, senior managing director at Winterberry Group, keeps everyone engaged, taking notes and thinking about their own experiences in the mix of statistics regarding digital, mobile, direct mail, TV and programmatic advertising.

“We will be OK if we can manage the Shutdown, Trump, China, Mueller, Congress and Brexit,” he noted, all of which weigh on business confidence.

Suffice it to say, marketing organizations and business, in general must navigate an interesting journey. Biegel reports estimated U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 2.3 percent in 2019 down from 3 percent in 2018, while total marketing spending growth in 2018 had dipped below its historic level of exceeding two times GDP growth.

In 2019, we are poised for 5.3 percent growth in advertising and marketing spending a slight gain from the 5.2 percent growth of 2018 over 2017.

Watch the Super Bowl, By All Means But Offline Dominance Is Diminishing

Look under the hood, and you see what the big drivers are. Offline spending including sponsorships, linear TV, print, radio, outdoor and direct mail will spot anemic growth, combined, of 0.1 percent in 2019. (Of these, direct mail and sponsorships will each post growth of more than 3 percent, Winterberry Group predicts.)

But online spending growth display, digital video, social, email, digital radio, digital out-of-home, and search will grow by 15.5 percent. Has offline media across all categories finally reached its zenith? Perhaps. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1.

Credit: Winterberry Group, 2019

Digital media spend achieved 50 percent of offline media spend for the first time in 2018. In 2019, it may reach 60 percent! So who should care?

We do! We are the livers and breathers of data, and data is in the driver’s seat. Biegel sees data spending growing by nearly 6 percent this year totaling $21.27 billion. Of this, $9.66 billion will be offline data spending, primarily direct mail. TV data spending (addressable, OTT) will reach $1.8 billion, digital data $7.85 billion, and email data spend $1.96 billion (see Figure 2.)

Figure 2.

Credit: Winterberry Group, 2019

Tortured CMOs: Unless She’s a Data Believer

Marketing today and tomorrow is not marketing yesterday. If marketing leadership does not recognize and understand data’s contribution to ad measurement, attribution and business objective ROI, then it’s time for a new generation to lead and succeed. Marketing today is spelled with a D: Data-Driven.

Unfortunately we don’t have all the data we need to manage Shutdown, Trump, China, Mueller, Congress and Brexit. That’s where sheer luck and gut instincts may still have a valid role. Sigh.

Thank You, Arthur Blumenfield, Joyful Storyteller

This past week, we bid farewell to a gentleman and a marketing pioneer, Arthur Blumenfield. For those of us in the New York marketing community, who revere data and data-driven marketing and media — as well as the camaraderie of our community — Arthur truly was a leading light.

This past week, we bid farewell to a gentleman and a marketing pioneer, Arthur Blumenfield.

For those of us in the New York marketing community, who revere data and data-driven marketing and media — as well as the camaraderie of our community — Arthur truly was a leading light.

Arthur was full of stories, and he was a masterful storyteller. He was also joyful, and one couldn’t help feeling the warmth when you were with him. One of my favorite stories was a visit he had taken to Jerusalem, where the locals told him to get a room at the Yimcah Hotel. Up and down he rode the bus route, having to remind the forgetful bus driver a couple of times to drop him off at the stop nearest to the hotel. Peeling his eyes along the route, looking for the hotel — back and forth, as other riders jumped in to say the bus had passed the hotel. Really? Finally, when he actually had the correct stop, he exited the bus and wandered about, finally discovering the Yimcah Hotel, otherwise known as the Y-M-C-A.

That was it, you never knew if it was urban lore — or a true experience. But it really didn’t matter, it was Arthur sharing a tale, and earning a laugh.

He loved his regular OGLE meetings — Old Guys Lunch Experience. Last summer, I received a coveted invitation.  And Arthur truly had a plan for inviting me there. There were plenty of folks in our field — with wisdom a-plenty — with their own stories to be told, and shared. He shared with me Eddy Boas’s book, “I’m Not a Victim, I am a Survivor — how one of our industry’s own endured the Holocaust in a camp with his family, only to survive, rise and build a career in Australia and beyond as a direct marketer. Arthur’s career crossed paths with many such personalities, most of them colorful like himself.

His accomplishments professionally preceded him:

  • He invented the de-duping processes for mail data files, as well as “Me-Books” — that’s personalized print and storytelling coming together;
  • He served as longtime treasurer for the Direct Marketing Club of New York, earning both Silver Apple (1994) and Golden Apple (2013) honors. The company he founded, BMI Global OMS, a family business, was a Silver Apple corporate honoree itself last year;
  • He was a founder of Direct Marketing Days of New York;
  • He cared deeply for the education mission of DMCNY — and our collective support for the future of our field;
  • He developed an order management system first used by the Direct Marketing Association (now Data & Marketing Association) for its conferences; and on and on.

He loved his craft, he loved our field, and loved most of all his family — husband, father, grandfather.  You know when you were invited to a summer outing in Easton, Conn., it was an extended family affair.

Thank you, Arthur, for your warmth, stories and achievements — all of which you so readily shared. We are all the better for it, and — in your spirit — I’m hopeful that any of us can pay it forward at least half as good as you did, with that ever-present smile. That would be remarkable.

In My Mailbox & Yours | An Artful Invite to a Special Evening

It’s my favorite mail piece this year — and it didn’t even include a check.

direct mail
Credit: Chet Dalzell

It’s my favorite mail piece this year — and it didn’t even include a check.

But it did include an invitation for payment. You may have received it, too.

Late next week (Nov. 16), 300-plus marketers will gather in New York for the 2017 Annual Gala Evening, the presentation of the 33rd Annual Silver Apples Awards. There, we pay homage to marketing leaders who have given 25 years (at least) of distinguished service to our field.

[This year’s Silver Apple honorees are Fran Green, ALC; John Princiotta, PCH; Eva Reda, American Express; Randall Rothenberg, IAB; Jay Schwedelson, Worldata; Rita Shankewitz, Bottom Line, Inc.; Corporate Honoree BMI Global OMS; and special Golden Apple Honoree Stu Boysen, Direct Marketing Club of New York (DMCNY).]

It is a fete. It is New York’s data, digital and direct marketing’s annual night out. You even see a national audience there.

But what I want to talk about is the marketing effort for the event this year. Each honoree is remarkable in his or her own way, which is why I really appreciated this year’s marketing campaign executed by DMCNY volunteers and partners.

Since on or about Labor Day, I — and a few thousand others like me — received a customary “Save the Date” email and the news announcement of the winners, first announced collectively. [Disclosure: I prepped the news release.]

But this year, we were introduced individually to each of the honorees, in a short email every 10 or so days, which gave a little bit of biographical color — personal and professional — on each honoree. The single honoree-focused digital effort culminated in a colorful direct mail invitation with a reply card and envelope, and a protected film envelope, which had each photo of the honorees in a frame. The backside of each framed photo included their career highlights.

The art is outstanding — somewhat reminiscent of Pollock or Calder — which I can appreciate as we celebrate somewhere between MOMA and the Whitney (Edison Ballroom, to be exact).

I often think about when is the right moment for print, a moment for mail, amid our increasingly social-digital-mobile lives. Physically receiving, opening and touching an invite still feels special to me, and I do think it elevates the “weight” of the honor we will be celebrating, and the important contributions these professionals make. While the gala itself will serve as the climax, I did find the mail moment here to be an exciting precursor — and well-timed, following the wave of individual honoree-focused emails, and just ahead of the last-minute digital reminders and follow-ups. Not every creative element was new in concept, but they were certainly fresh in concert.

Well done, DMCNY. As a past honoree, I am blessed to be able to say “thank you.” As I think about the upcoming week, I can say we’ve raised the curtain to this year’s honorees with elán and spirit — one I’m hopeful carries through the experience of the event.

See you next Thursday in New York.

[Credits for the DMCNY Silver Apples marketing effort go to several folks, including: Invitation & Program Cover Design: Robert Snow of Robert Snow Marketing Communications; Invitation Printing and Mailing & Program Book Printing: McVicker & Higginbotham; Program Booklet Design: Cheryl Biswurm, Turner Direct LLC; Email Design and Execution: Briana Kovar and Carolyn Lagermasini, Association & Conference Group; as well as an entire Silver Apples Planning Committeeso you’ll need to be there presently to give them all kudos.]

The Sustainability of Data and the Skeptical Consumer

As long as I’ve been in this business, privacy has been an industry priority for marketers. Just as it should be. When our entire professional lives depend on continued commercial access and application of data, the sustainability of such data depends on trust.

Database & CRMAs long as I’ve been in this business, privacy has been an industry priority for marketers.

Just as it should be.

When our entire professional lives depend on continued commercial access and application of data, then consumer acceptance must be a first-and-foremost focus.

First-party, second-party, third-party — the sustainability of data depends on trust.

But permission is not the only arbiter of consumer acceptance. Relevance matters, too. What do we do with such data — and do we do it effectively? Can we demonstrate wise, responsible use of consumer information to improve the customer experience?

Yes we can, and yes we must.

It’s been a busy two weeks for data “love.”

First we had the Direct Marketing Club of New York presentation (downloadable at link) last month pointing to the heady growth in direct/digital data-driven marketing. While U.S. general ad spending is projected to grow just 1 percent this year – almost shockingly small in a Presidential Election and Olympic year — “direct and digital” are projected to grow 6.4 percent, and digital spend alone by 15.3 percent.

Then this past week, the Direct Marketing Association’s Data-Driven Marketing Institute released its “Value of Data / 2015” study — with an even more remarkable finding: The U.S. Data-Driven Marketing Economy is now $202 billion in net economic contribution and more than 50 percent of this ecosystem “depends directly on individual-level third-party data. Thus the value to the U.S. economy is greater than $102 billion.”

That’s us folks.

Now to consumer skepticism.

TRUSTe has released its “State of Online Privacy 2016” research findings. They include sobering findings:

Today, 56 percent of Americans trust businesses with their personal information online. “Consumers demand transparency in exchange for trust and want to be able to control how data is collected, used and shared with simpler tools to help them manage their privacy online,” the report stated. In addition, 37 percent think losing online privacy is a part of being more connected. Nearly three out of four Americans have limited their online activity last year due to privacy concerns.

A new study by Verint Systems may point to a paradox: 48 percent say they are suspicious about how data about themselves is used — but 89 percent believe good customer service makes them feel positive about the brand. When data is deployed, truly, to improve the customer experience — then the data-driven marketer has done her job.

In both these surveys, the data-for-value exchange is a baseline proposition.

On a macroeconomic scale, consumers and the economy obviously benefit from our increasingly data-driven world. At the customer level, many consumers aren’t so sure. We need to do the best job we can communicating transparency and control to consumers, treating them with respect, and using data to improve customer experiences.

Now, who will be my data Valentine?