“What are we going to do with this moment?” That’s the big challenge from a presentation I attended by Harris Diamond, the chairman and CEO of McCann Worldgroup, at this week’s National Postal Forum in Nashville, Tenn.
He was part of a discussion, “Welcome to the Experience Economy,” led by U.S. Postal Service Chief Marketing and Sales Officer Jim Cochrane. The all-star industry panelists shared their perspectives on how technological and cultural changes are affecting how consumers experience brands, and the implications this has for direct mail.
In one sense, Diamond was talking about the “mail moment,” the reaction of consumers to the direct mail that they receive. The lives of most people are increasingly cluttered with digital messaging, so this is the time when the tactile, physical nature of mail arriving at a consumer’s home can make a different impression. It’s a concept that the USPS has been talking about for a few years.
But he was also talking about the new possibilities facing marketers.
Thanks to advancements in technology, as well as an ability to align with developing social trends, “mail is on the edge of a new frontier,” he said, far beyond catchy art and copy. It has “the potential to be more powerful than ever before.”
A lot of this we already know. Maybe it’s using special textures, scents, or sizes in a mailing. Or maybe it’s digital technologies, like augmented reality, QR Codes, or NFC.
It’s why the USPS has the “Irresistible Mail” campaign: to incentivize marketers to use new techniques that make mail more personal and relevant to the consumer. To make the “mail moment” more powerful.
To provide food for thought, Diamond offered five interesting creative rules. As you would expect, they focus on using electronic media in direct mail to engage with audiences in the most effective way possible.
For example: “Go where your customers are.” He cited the highly visible outreach of Pope Francis to previously under-served groups. And he showed a bit of President Obama’s “Between Two Ferns” video interview. His point? Don’t stand on tradition when there’s an opportunity to communicate with an audience in a different way.
But it was Diamond’s last rule that most resonated with me: focus on the relationship with the consumer and understand what they are comfortable with.
Mail will have an impact “if it adds value to their lives,” he said.
This is the guideline that is as necessary as it’s ever been: to think always of benefits, not features. To think ahead about what you want your target audience to do, and how the mailing, with its technological enhancements, will accomplish that. For marketers, as Diamond said, “the mail moment is right now.”