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



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

corner shop.


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

standard creatively.

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

and/or euros.

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


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