Last week, Marketing Magazine and the Direct Marketing Association of Toronto asked for my opinions on the key trends for creativity in Direct Marketing in 2007. I offered up six, ever the optimist. While these are primarily focussed on the Canadian industry, a few are definately appropriate for the US and Western Europe. Here's the unexpurgated version...
1. Ramping up online integration
...Our clients are not only using e-mail as a response-lifting followup to a mail campaign, but are changing their web content to use our harder-working DM sales messaging, rather than simple brochure-ware. The net result is that the web generates sales, not just lift.
2. Anti-skepticism (i.e. the 'Reality Show' of Direct Marketing!)
...There has always been a healthy dose of skepticism towards advertising, but it's reached the critical point for some core DM products. For example, credit card solicitation response rates have tumbled (from an avg. 3.5% in 1992 to 0.3% in 2005) as mail volumes have soared (from 900 million in 1992 to 6 billion in 2004). To combat this, I see a trend towards creative that is more pragmatic about the choices consumers face.
3. True brand support and extension
...This goes way beyond picking up images from a brand ad campaign. Finally, there's clear buy-in from clients to use the single most powerful sales message and run it in all channels - print ads, online, DM, radio. There's the understanding that good DM will build your brand just as well as a Globe & Mail print campaign. I think that mythical line in 'below the line' is finally beginning to fade!
4. Offline-exclusive content
...Information gets stale-dated quicker than ever as consumers stop waiting to be forcefed information through their mailbox, and do their research online via blogs, corporate websites and user forums. I see successful DM campaigns that have offline-only content (e.g. a Test Drive Toolkit with tangible things like a leg-room tape measure to enrich the real-world buying process)
5. Cry Wolf
...this one has been around for a while, but I think now the consequences are starting to come to light. Some clients believe that the best way to get their DM opened is to put just a corporate logo on the outside, or otherwise masquerade the solicitation as a bill or 'important notification'. Sure it'll fool some of the people some of the time, but do we really want to be tricking our customers into opening an envelope and then being angered that they've been fooled? That sure isn't going to boost response rates. I see a trend back to creating compelling messaging outside, rather than trickery.
6. Master the billing / fulfillment channel
...2007 is going to be the start of richer billing and fulfillment package experiences. Too many times these 'operational' channels (a monthly bill, annual invoice, delivery of new credit card plastic etc.) have no customer retention and upsell intention whatsoever. It's high time to make them a marketing function, with measurable customer relationship enhancement metrics.