DIRECT MARKETING: BURNING ISSUES - Creative standards, ’corner-shop’ marketing, a death register and the euro. Four direct marketers give their views on the issues they think will be the most important for the industry in years to come
By JADE GARRETT, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 30 October 1998 12:00AM
Direct marketing manager, Cornhill Direct
Cornhill Direct is one of the highest volume mailers in the country.
The sheer quantity of mailing, coupled with the fact that the company
targets the over-50s, means there are more likely to be problems of the
sort that hit the headlines, with mailings going to people after their
death. Far less than 1 per cent of the mailings that Cornhill sends out
give rise to complaints, but it’s that small percentage that makes the
As part of the need to change public perceptions and prevent tales of
distress, a public register would make a lot of sense and help to
present a more positive image of the direct marketing industry. Although
we try our best to keep our database up to date, what Cornhill and the
industry as a whole is crying out for is a national deaths register.
Whether you love it or loathe it, direct mail is here to stay and
volumes are rising all the time. In the financial services industry
alone, an average of 20 new products are launched or improved each week.
In 1997, an estimated pounds 1.7 billion was spent and 1998 is set to be
another buoyant year.
Many direct marketers rely heavily on list-providers and while they do
their best to ensure that those lists are up to date, the inability to
link with a central deaths register inevitably means that mistakes are
As we are unable to access the register of births, marriages and deaths
owned by the Public Records Office, the need for a national suppression
file - which today only caters for people who don’t want to receive
direct mail, as well as gone-aways - has also been uppermost in the mind
of the DMA.
Director, sales and relationship management, Air Miles
It’s all about relationships and databases.
When all transactions happened in the corner shop or street market,
local people knew what their customers wanted. One-to-one relationships
developed because most sales happened between neighbours. This allowed
people to provide what was required at the right time to the right
Since then we have been heading in a different direction, towards mass
markets, globalisation and economies of scale. However, people’s
underlying needs have stayed the same and they do not see themselves as
a number or an average. They have always wanted to have their specific
requirements met and now trends in media fragmentation, IT costs and IT
capacity, in addition to the variety of choices we face, demand that we
go back to providing one-to-one relationships with our customers.
The only way to hold the information we need, to give the people the
personal attention they require, is to create marketing databases that
hold as much of the history of their dealings with us as is relevant and
useful. Little wonder that database evaluation is becoming a crucial
part of company accounting, with figures appearing on balance sheets
similar to those for brand evaluation.
These days, consumers expect to be treated as individuals. They know
exactly what they want, and the rate at which they want it has
dramatically accelerated. The ’me’ generation has been replaced by the
’me, NOW’ generation, and the companies of the future will meet these
demands by using modern technology to behave like an old-fashioned
Advertising and promotions manager, Renault
For the direct marketing industry to thrive, it needs to concentrate on
the creative. Without doubt, marketers must target people intelligently,
but not at the expense of creating work which is appealing and
It’s easy with direct marketing to get carried away with profiling and
narrowing the audience. The danger with thinking that we’ve got to have
one-to-one marketing is that, as you start to talk to people in a more
personal way, their expectations of what you know about them goes
And it’s easy to get something wrong - even expensive data is not 100
per cent reliable.
You need to produce a piece of direct marketing which is suitably
targeted and of interest. It’s the same sort of principles you’d apply
to above-the-line advertising. It has to be right and it has to be
In many ways, DM has an advantage over TV. Mail can be any size or shape
and so the canvas can be more flexible. The potential to achieve high
standout is there, since a great deal of material is of a very low
The direct marketing industry needs to do a bit of marketing itself, so
that it attracts people who are going to be the creatives of the
We can’t afford for people to feel that direct marketing agencies are -
creatively speaking - lesser cousins of advertising agencies. As clients
put more emphasis on direct marketing, it is essential that the same
creative and production values that prevail in other parts of marketing
are mirrored in direct marketing.
Director, circulation and marketing, National Geographic
Forget the millennium bug, there is something much more invasive coming
to these shores. If you are involved in cross-border marketing, you may
not have flagged up 1 January as a potential D-Day (or shall I say
E-Day) but you should. The UK is not one of the 11 countries joining the
European Monetary Union but that doesn’t mean we won’t have to deal with
the euro. If we are trading with the 11 then someone is going to want to
pay us in the common currency.
We are undecided what to do in mailing strategies. No-one really knows
whether or not the European consumer will hang on to the old currency
habits until 2002, when the coinage arrives and the euro becomes a
reality without choice. We must consider promoting in local currencies
Order processing systems will have to record payment transactions in the
local currency and in the euro. Most systems will not accept two
currencies per country - there is simply not enough room - so a euro
payment will have to be exchanged into sterling.
Then comes an enquiry from a customer who talks in euros not
Over- and underpayments will cause problems, and when a customer who has
paid in euros requests a refund, the full ramifications will become
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk
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