There’s GOLD in that Mailbox – and in that Pencil Box, Too

I’m now amid judging the 2014 Direct Marketing Association International ECHO Awards—which is always a pleasure. In just a few days of judging each year, I get to see what agencies and clients the world over put forward as their best in data-driven direct marketing, encompassing all channels. For direct mail, there is always one campaign that gets honored with the U.S. Postal Service-sponsored Gold Mailbox Award, which recognizes the most innovative use of the medium

I’m now amid judging the 2014 Direct Marketing Association International ECHO Awards—which is always a pleasure. In just a few days of judging each year, I get to see what agencies and clients the world over put forward as their best in data-driven direct marketing, encompassing all channels.

For direct mail, there is always one campaign that gets honored with the U.S. Postal Service-sponsored Gold Mailbox Award, which recognizes the most innovative use of the medium. The named winner doesn’t have to be a direct mail-only campaign—an integrated marketing effort will do, too, as long as there is an outstanding direct mail component, whether foreign or domestic.

This year’s Gold Mailbox campaign will be selected in early August, and will be revealed at the 2014 International ECHO Awards Gala during the DMA2014 Conference in San Diego, Cali. I’ll be there, with luck.

In 2013, the USPS Gold Mailbox went to a German non-profit organization, Chill Out, which used a unique dimensional—a harmless looking pencil box—to educate school administrators in its target audience about the dangers of drug addiction in young children. What was inside the pencil box was dummy drug paraphernalia, an indication that what looks innocent on the outside can hide dangers within. The interior also included how to contact Chill Out, which provides school-based drug prevention programs. The blunt uneasiness of the campaign communicated both urgency and immediacy, and a means for schools to combat this growing problem—affecting one child in seven—head on.

The dimensional mailing, created for Chill Out by Wunderman Germany, generated stellar impact: Of 120 schools sent the mail piece in the German state of Brandenburg, 48 contacted Chill Out, and 29 schools now have integrated the Chill Out drug prevention program.

Not many business-to-institutional mailings generate a 40 percent response rate, with a subsequent conversion of more than 60 percent of respondents. But when the list is accurate, the message relevant—and the creative discerning—engagement happens. Direct mail has power to arrest, to stimulate and to motivate action, especially when it dares to be different. There are a lot of grateful school heads, parents and students, as a direct result.

And a majority of ECHO judges, too.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: Business Schools Offering Social Media Courses

To meet the demand from companies for skills around social media strategies, tony business schools — including Harvard Business School; London Business School; Insead, the international business school based in Fontainebleau, France; and the École des Hautes Études Commerciales, known as H.E.C., in Paris — are incorporating courses on social media into their M.B.A. curriculums. Social media strategy courses, according to the article, “aim to build on existing skills to teach an understanding of social media, of how to build marketing strategies within social networks and of how to track their effectiveness.”

I read a March 30 New York Times article that said that many national and international business schools are incorporating social media strategy courses into their curriculums.

Take that, all of you social media marketing naysayers!

To meet the demand from companies for skills around social media strategies, tony business schools — including Harvard Business School; London Business School; Insead, the international business school based in Fontainebleau, France; and the École des Hautes Études Commerciales, known as HEC, in Paris — are incorporating courses on social media into their M.B.A. curriculums.

Social media strategy courses, according to the article, “aim to build on existing skills to teach an understanding of social media, of how to build marketing strategies within social networks and of how to track their effectiveness.”

While most of the students entering these programs may be adept at using social networking tools in their personal lives, that’s not enough, says the article. Companies want executives that “can transfer this experience into the commercial world.”

Textbooks aren’t required in many of the courses; instead, students are asked to follow industry-specific blogs to keep up with developments. They’re instructed to communicate with people involved in the social media industry, listening to the issues they deal with on a strategic level.

Schools are teaching social media marketing in a variety of ways. In an upcoming course at Insead, students will work on a project for the luxury brand Hermès, generating detailed social media marketing strategy ideas for the brand. A course at London Business School required students to participate in the 2009 Google Online Marketing Challenge, where teams were given $200 of free online advertising with Google AdWords to work with companies to devise effective online marketing campaigns. Meanwhile at Harvard Business School, a second-year elective course on “competing with social networks” is being offered as part of that school’s M.B.A. program.

The article made the argument that the high level of engagement of top digital media professionals with these courses has reciprocal benefits. Students get to learn from the skills and experience of the executives, while the companies get to make contact with potential future hires with the skills needed to exploit social media channels for commercial gain.

Sounds like a win-win to me. But what do you think? Do you think social media strategy or social networking skills can be taught, or can they only be mastered by folks after they’ve gotten their hands dirty with them?

And should elite business schools — elite, expensive business schools, that is — bother with social media strategy or social networking courses? Should they be instead focusing on more lofty subjects?

Let me know by posting a comment below!