The Personal Touch

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Nick Mercer of Direct Marketing and Data agency MercerBell dicusses "Why Direct Marketing needs to get back to basics to stay fresh in a digital world"

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  • Nick
  • Simon – headline – then Nick: As we now live in the digital world and are surrounded by gadgets, gizmos and “social media utilities” that enable us to communicate instantly, tell everyone what “we like”, it is a valid question to ask if direct mail still works as an effective advertising medium. There is no doubt that since the introduction of email that many marketing professionals actually thought that the humble letter would quickly die out. The truth is that whilst digital technology does offer a number of benefits, we believe that direct mail does have an edge in a couple of important areas. But what does it need to reassert this superiority? That’s what we’re going to discuss today.
  • Nick So here’s a quick rundown of what we’re going to be discussing
  • Simon Now whilst this talk isn’t intended to be about having a go at Social Media in particular, we thought it might be a good place to start.
  • Simon The fact is, the majority of our personal interactions and communications these days are now online through email and social and professional networking utilities like facebook, linkedin and twitter. We will (for the most part) happily share intimate details and photos of our lives with friends, colleagues, friends of friends, stalkers and of course people we went to school with who we thought we’d only have to see at the obligatory 10 and 20 year reunions. And a by-product of this shift is that mail has gone from being a very personal channel into a very functional one. But think about this – how much noise is there now in our digital lives?
  • Simon Could I ask everyone to stand up and calculate how many email addresses you have – home/work/web-based email/facebook mail/linkedinMail etc. Start with 1 and get people to progressively sit down. <Give gauge of where bulk of audience sits> Prize for top male/female – can of Spam each <Mount?> I realised – when we started thinking about this – that I have 8 – Hotmail as my “mobile” email/Bigpond at home/my hyro address/the .me address that comes with my mobileme account and the yahoo one I had to get to open a flickr account. Then there’s linkedinmail, mail via facebook and Twitter DM. That’s 8 separate electronic mail accounts – and even if aggregate them all into a couple of streams, you as marketers have no idea which of those I take the most notice of. In fact, I have 1792 unopened emails in my hotmail account, 292 unopened in my Bigpond account AND 226 in my work account – yet I read all of my Twitter DMs And I only have 1 letterbox.
  • Nick – we think this sums the current situation for our digital lives up pretty well.
  • Nick Knowing we’d be speaking at this event around the subject of the channel of direct mail both Simon and I started to collect examples of direct mail both at home and at work You might be surprised to see some of the companies using direct mail Why here is a piece of direct mail from Google And another from ebay Arguably two of the largest digital corporations in the world with some of the fastest growing technology platforms Yet they still understand how to use the right medium to target new customers Here is an imposing mailing we received at work. It boasts a very big promise, but it actually doesn’t really deliver Simon’s review … Nick – summation One of the biggest revelations was that actually we don’t receive that much direct mail. Not compared to the UK or USA where people will receive probably 3 times the mail volumes in Australia. We receive a lot of bank statements and bills and council notifications etc. <Simon - I received 2> And its also probably not much of a surprise to anyone here but we received virtually no social mail – if it hadn’t been for half of Simon’s family getting married this year there would have been none. So are we simply two losers with lazy friends? Or are we all? What this all adds up to from our point of view, is that mail should be playing an even greater role in the multi-channel marketing mix. But it’s not. And here’s a pretty good indicator.
  • Simon
  • Simon Now we’re going to come back to these pieces when we get into the case studies a little later, because all 4 are consistent with our hypothesis on the strengths of mail, and how to use it.
  • Simon Well we think there are number of issues that are affecting the mail channel. And in many respects, it’s of our own doing. I believe we’re trying too hard to emulate digital, and are forgetting what makes mail unique. In essence, we’re losing the personal touch. And here’s how…
  • Nick Many companies are not taking the time to properly interrogate the data surrounding the audience they are writing to There is a tendency to simply rely on the surface level data that sits on the database, rather than trying to dig deeper and build a picture about the person you are trying to sell a product or a service too. Examples – Whiskas (Simon)
  • Simon This is a mistake digital often makes – focusing on the technology used to deliver the message rather than what we’re trying to say. Direct Mail is in danger of doing the same. Sometimes creatives are at fault – developing work that fits to a format, rather than finding an idea first and then deciding on the most appropriate delivery mechanism. Rework [But I think we’re also guilty of it when we look at multi-segment matrix based mailings, that are essentially, written by computer. Sure a writer has hand in there at some point, but when you’re writing in fragments, you have no idea what the whole will be. It ticks all of the boxes, except for the one about feeling natural. It all feels too clinical.]
  • Simon We all know that our own name is one of the most powerful words in the world. If we see our name, our attention is certainly switched on; so using personalisation is one of the most powerful direct marketing tools we have available. But it must be used judiciously and it must be relevant, as a mail pack that uses my first name five times across a handful of paragraphs for no apparent reason is just plain irritating. And if you’re sending me a Christmas gift, no, I don’t want a calendar with my name written in clouds or hedges for every month of the year. But when used well – Sydney Swans example/recipient had framed the mail pack. (Simon) (Nick) – Fuji Xerox
  • Nick There’s a difference between providing information about a product and selling one. It’s the old features vs benefits argument. There’s a place for pithy feature-led copy – but it shouldn’t the focus of your piece. We see two problems here: One is the argument that everyone is time poor now and doesn’t have time to read – so just give them the facts. It’s true, I am time poor, which means I’ll only spend time on something where I know someone has spent some time thinking about me. Simon The other problem is that everyone is now a writer – or at least thinks they are. And it’s not surprising – we can publish and be published like never before. As a result, copy is being judged under an increasingly critical microscope. Combine that with the lens of everyone being too busy to read anything, and we’re ending up with direct mail that is only trying to provide information as opposed to actually persuade or sell a product or service. Great and successful mail relies on the ability to capture your attention, tell you a story and break your inertia to act. And before we get into how you can bring the personal touch back to your direct mail, we’re going to show you a few examples which we think do it pretty well.
  • Nick All of the work we are going to show you has won awards – so not just work we like but work that has been recognised as some of the best
  • Simon The Wall Street Journal Letter is one of the world's most famous control packs. It was written in 1974 and ran for some 28 year. Who’s seen it before? What made this sales letter so effective? First it starts with an interesting story that simply but effectively dramatises the value of reading the journal. <read opening paras> It’s a simple human story and it’s one that many of us can relate to or be desperately trying to avoid – that’s the human insight. It’s also pretty low key, drawing you in gently then softly lays out all the facts, all the benefits. And of course even the P.S. is bang on for the target – "It's important to note that The Journal's subscription price may be tax deductible.”
  • Simon I found this quote when I was doing a little bit of research into the letter. Quote from James Rosenfield in the obituary of the copywriter of the piece, Martin Conroy. Somewhat over the top, but I doubt many TV commercials – or Social Media Campaigns – can claim to have the effect or longevity of this piece: It is estimated that this letter resulted in $1 billion in sales for the paper between 1975 and 2003.
  • Simon In a world of free credit cards, this letter from AMEX is offering you one you have to pay for. It’s a pretty hard sell, but it uses the “not everyone gets in” strategy that can move people to get out their wallets faster than any other. We all have this innate desire to show that we’re good enough. And as such, it’s also a great example of how a simple and factual letter can pack a punch. On the surface it is a list of features, but the reader’s emotions are pulled at for most of the letter – “Have you made it”, “are you good enough”, “you get what you pay for” – these messages are t he subtext underpinning the whole of the letter, targeting the status anxiety of the recipients perfectly – again that’s the insight And it’s also worth pointing out that, like TWSJ letter, ran as an unbeatable control pack for some 12 years from 1974 onwards. And in fact, it was even resurfacing with some of Platinum Card mailings we were doing in the past couple of years at Ogilvy. Now that’s a $900 card, being sold with a simple letter. Now those are some classic piece of direct marketing from the good old days. Do the same rues still apply?
  • Nick The Brief: The earthquake catastrophe in Haiti was covered across all media. Misereor wanted to move Germany’s top journalists not just to cover the misery caused by the earthquake, but to get active themselves and help out with a donation. The Execution: To encourage as many of the approximately 500 top journalists and media decision-makers as possible to make a donation, we developed an unusual mailing concept. Instead of writing reams of letters asking for donations, we reduced the copy to a provocative demand: deeds, not words! And underlined our message with an attention-grabbing, formal idea. The results: Almost half of the approximate 500 journalists we approached reacted to the mailing. The majority were prepared to help the eathquake victims of Haiti with a donation. The campaign was a great success for Misereor. What I like – the execution uses the tangible nature of Mail, but it also does it in a way that dramatically demonstrates the effect of the disaster – displacing the message in the same way that the earthquake displaced the population of Haiti
  • Simon Client - Life Without Weapons Objective – Raise awareness of child soldiers in many developing countries/and to collect more donations. Execution – There’s a compulsory period of military service all adult German males, and the draft notice is well known. This mailing was designed to mimic that style. So it raises attention - even before the letter is opened. The fact the piece is then actually conscripting the young children of our target group is then pretty powerful stuff that guarantees attention. The message – Unthinkable in Germany. Reality in other countries. Help us stop the use of child soldiers - with your donation. Ohne Rüstung Leben e.V., www.kindersoldaten.eu The Results: Our direct mailing has been sent to approx.14.000 German households of our target group (families with small children). 855 of these people (6.1%) decided to donate, overall approx. 5,300 Euro. Furthermore 95 people decided to join the organisation Ohne Rüstung Leben e.V. (no membership fee) What I like – This isn’t just about cold data; They’ve come up with an idea, and then mined the data to deliver greater impact
  • Nick The Brief: The objective was to capture the imagination of contributors and volunteers for the project from the NGO “IHDI” : the Welfare Station Lodging whose objective is to shelter, treat and reintegrate homeless people who literally live on the streets of São Paulo. The Execution: We sent a photo to each establishment owner of his storefront showing what it would look like if the project Welfare Station Lodging did not exist. On the photo they could see homeless people. Each owner received a photo of his own establishment, which made the campaign very unique and impactful. Together with the photo, we asked them to collaborate with the NGO so that it could move forward with the Project. The Results: Of the 300 people impacted, 190 accepted to make donations for the Project. The average value of donation per individual was R$ 200,00. In the end, we succeeded in raising R$ 38.000,00 = about $20.000,00 dolars. What I like – pretty simple idea dramatising what the situation would be like with/without the organisation, but by putting the recipient’s business – literally – into the picture, they’ve got that balance of personalisation/humanisation
  • Simon The brief: What can the Swedish Post do about young people only sharing their lives on Facebook these days? How can we prove the strength of a traditional post card? The Execution: By collecting status updates and comments from Facebook then making them come alive in the physical world, we created something original and unique. The target group was impressed by the personality and character of a physical Christmas greeting. Something they, in many cases, had never experienced before. This suited the brand like a glove. The Postal service wants people to feel that a physical letter is the most personal way of communicating. And you couldn’t find a more personal Christmas card than this. Each one reflecting the sender and receiver’s communication during the past year. The Results: The campaign created a massive positive reaction in blogs and social media where the Postal service was portrayed as well in sync with the present. During the 18 days this campaign ran, over 5000 cards were sent as a result of 65000 unique visits. The average time spent on the site was 3:40 and the sales cost per response was 25 SEK. What we like – The way in which the campaign combined the recipient’s digital world with their physical one demonstrates both human and brand insights. Again, it’s a very simple demonstration, but it does it in a way that is very authentic.
  • Nick We’ve shown you some great examples of work that uses the personal touch. They’re great So what else should you be doing to keeping your mail fresh
  • Nick Gain a greater understanding about the person you are about to communicate to – think about the environment of the person you are trying to interrupt If you are trying to convince a member of your organisation to purchase a new set of xxxx then if he or she has already received 20 emails from you that month – chances are you wont convince that person in an email to part with $2000
  • Simon When planning your channel communications identify the tasks that mail is best used for – and that can be whether it’s better for retention than acquisition, or up-selling rather than cross-selling. It can also be about identifying some of the inherent strengths of direct mail and using them to your advantage. Mail is a tangible medium. There is definitely something to be said for the value of touching something. I have always said direct mail is akin to holding the brand in your hands, so if your letter’s printed on the next grade up from toilet paper, what do you think that’s saying? There’s no doubting it can be as simple as paper stock and print quality – the right selection can exude quality and reinforce brand values in a way that emails never can – but it can’t just be about being tangible, it has to be relevant to the brand, what you’re saying and who you’re talking to. Nick - Prius seeded paper example
  • Nick If there is one thing I have noticed as a consultant is the saying ‘ well of course we’d use email because its cheaper and quicker’ but isnt that the wrong question? Surely a smart marketer would be asking the question ‘from which channel will I get the best return’ So do your homework, work out your response and conversion models and understand what your required investment is to get the return you need.
  • Simon Busy people don’t want you wasting your time, but if it’s an insightful, well thought out argument you’re presenting, then you won’t be wasting anyone’s time. D on’t be afraid to take your time and tell a story that your audience will relate to. You can’t bore someone into buying your product.
  • Nick As you’ve seen from some of the work we’ve just shown you – when the letter is written with a personal touch the message is so much more powerful Don’t forget you may be mailing 50,000 dm packs but in essence you are writing to 50,000 individuals. There’s a reason why DM is also called 1 to 1. Don’t simply provide information or facts or figures – to sell a product or service you need to tell a story……….. Plus of course you need to have all the basics of dm included as well
  • Simon If you don’t agree with everything we’ve just said – that’s fine, that’s what makes DM great: test and learn; control pack vs challenger. We’ve seen the power of control packs in the American Express and TWSJ letters. Rather than reinventing the wheel, make it better.
  • Nick
  • Nick The direct mail channel is still very much an invaluable communication tool for marketers When you get it right as you’ve seen from some of the examples we’ve shown it can be hugely successful Simon In a digital world mail still has an important role to play In fact the fastest area of growth within the digital world for marketers is the ability to transpose direct marketing principles in digital channels Nick But like anything you need to keep working at it to keep it successful A big part of keeping it fresh is to get back to the basics What ever you do – please don’t forget the personal touch
  • The Personal Touch

    1. 1. The Personal Touch Why Direct Mail needs to get back to basics to stay fresh in a digital world. Nick Mercer, Managing Director – MercerBell @nickmercer Simon Bloomfield, National Creative Director – Hyro @dekkard42
    2. 2. (Or why there’s nothing personal about a poke.)
    3. 3. <ul><li>1. What’s in our letterboxes? </li></ul><ul><li>2. With mail budgets shifting online, what are the mistakes we are making? </li></ul><ul><li>3. The Personal Touch in action – case studies from the past and present. </li></ul><ul><li>4. Keeping the mail channel fresh. </li></ul>
    4. 6. Stand up, please.
    5. 7. “ The problem is that consumers’s shift towards digital media has been equalled, if not surpassed by a shift in volume of online advertising. Add to this the now well-documented phenomenon of consumers creating and sharing their own content online and the outcome is a digital landscape that has become even more saturated with brand communications.” Mobashara Nazir, MRM Worldwide in Campaign Magazine’s ‘Digital Essays’
    6. 8. So, what’s in our mailboxes?
    7. 9. Approximately 1/3 (or around 25) of the Cannes Direct Lion winners in 2006 either were mailpacks or included a significant element of Direct Mail.
    8. 10. 1 Gold; 1 Silver; 2 Bronze (3 for charities; 1 for a postal service) In 2010, there were 4.
    9. 11. So with mail budgets shifting online, what are the mistakes we are making?
    10. 12. 1. There’s an over reliance on data in absence of a real consumer insight.
    11. 13. 2. We’re forgetting that technology is just a tool, not an idea.
    12. 14. 3. We’re too focused on personalisation, and forgetting about humanisation.
    13. 15. 4. We’re losing the art of persuasion.
    14. 16. The Personal Touch in action – Direct Mail case studies
    15. 17. THE WALL STREET JOURNAL LETTER BBDO, Martin Conroy
    16. 18. “ It’s the ‘Hamlet,’ the ‘Iliad,’ the ‘Divine Comedy’ of direct-mail letters. It’s had a longer life, to my knowledge, than any other direct mail in history.” James R. Rosenfield, describing Conroy’s letter in the copywriter’s obituary published in the New York Times .
    17. 19. QUITE FRANKLY, AMERICAN EXPRESS OGILVY & MATHER DIRECT, New York
    18. 20. FALLING LETTERS KOLLE REBBE, Hamburg
    19. 21. CHILD SOLDIERS JUNG von MATT, Hamburg
    20. 22. INVASION MRM WORLDWIDE Sao Paulo
    21. 23. MAGICAL CHRISTMAS CARDS CRISPIN PORTER + BOGUSKY Europe
    22. 24. How to keep your direct mail fresh.
    23. 25. 1. Use consumer insights to decide on your channel choices.
    24. 26. 2. Play to the strengths of mail.
    25. 27. 3. Measure the value return rather than simply the cost.
    26. 28. 4. Brevity is not the soul of wit – it’s a sign of laziness.
    27. 29. 5. Make your direct mail more personal.
    28. 30. 6. Test and learn. Every time.
    29. 31. A final word (Or a final few)
    30. 32. <ul><li>“ Mail is unique. It’s the only medium that can be personal and exploit all the virtues of 3D-ness. A direct mail pack can be a sensory feast. A delight to hold and unfold, read and see, even hear and smell. Even in the Facebook age, a letter is still one of the most warmly welcomed of communications.&quot; </li></ul>Simon Kershaw, Executive Creative Director, TDA (UK)

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