By Nick Sarnadas, Portfolio Director, Specialised Exhibitions Montgomery
“I just want to be heard!” wails the marketing director (who shall remain anonymous due to his or her extreme thespian abilities).
Before you think this is one of those life-coaching columns, let me be direct: It’s not. It’s about retro marketing experiencing a revival. It’s about the importance of direct mail campaigns. In particular, the rise of mail (yes the real tangible stuff) and the slight traffic detour on the SA postal highway (did someone say PoPIA?).
As all good stories go, let’s start at the beginning: A long, long time ago time in Egypt, about 3,000 years ago, a landowner wrote an ad on papyrus offering a payment of gold in return for his runaway slave.
True story. You can view this ancient example of direct marketing in the British Museum.
Although the term “direct marketing” is only just over three decades old (having been coined by Lester Wunderman in 1987), beside the historic artefact referenced above, other ancient civilisations were already carving ads into stone tablets!
Skip ahead to present day and not only is chipping away at ads made easier, but the distribution of ads to the target market has evolved thanks to the rapid succession in invention following printing press: the computer, the internet and, of course, our beloved mobile devices.
Herewith ends the history lesson…or does it?
Not really. Nostalgia is making a comeback in the form of direct mail. The hard-copy papers received in letterboxes. For marketers and business owners, one of the biggest urban legends is that direct mail is dead and that it was killed by the internet.
The real scenario is that it’s not just alive and well, but that in fact, “direct mail could be considered superior to other marketing channels based on recent statistics and studies,” states a post on Forbes.com.
It also highlights stats from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), which found that overall, “direct mail’s response rates are actually anywhere from 10 to 30 times higher than that of digital. [It notes that] consumers, overwhelmed by inboxes cluttered with unsolicited marketing e-mails, are more receptive to direct mail, which arrives on a much less-cluttered channel.
Recently, itportal.com, published that “according to recent studies, more than 269 billion e-mails are sent daily. The chances of your marketing campaigns getting lost in the sea of spam is only set to increase as we rely more on technology. However, compared to that statistic, direct mail is said to be kept in the house for 17 days, with 87 percent of consumers trusting messages within direct mailing, and only 48 percent trusting what is said in e-mails.”
Ha, imagine the cool factor if everyone could receive a stone tablet! In fact, influencing the popularity and rise of direct mail is its perceived value. It’s emotive: to receive something tangible adds to a more authentic human experience.
Perhaps it is also a sense of security that direct mail extracts from people of all generations (yes, millennials included). Opening mass e-mails opens individuals up to cybercrime and data mining. There’s certainly no phishing threat however when receiving a postcard.
Marketers should therefore thoroughly embrace this retro resurgence – the possibilities are endless, ironically, thanks to digital driving the traditional. Some of the technological advances and developments in the industry mentioned by itportal.com include multi-channel integration (this refers to the combination of the primary forms of marketing: digital and direct mail), programmatic mail (which provides companies with the power to transform online activity into hyper-personalised mail), augmented reality (think of the success of Pokemon Go and the rise of QR codes – two worlds are colliding), dimensional mailers (as the term states – it’s stuff that does not fit in an envelope) and then….PoPIA – the South African Protection of Personal Information Act.
The reality is that direct mail success relies on clean customer data. Importantly though, the PoPIA legislation needs to be prioritised before you even begin to collect customer data or you could face hefty fines, a big ding in your reputation, your best direct mail campaign lying crumpled in a wastebasket, and a revival that was never revived.
Jano Fourie, SEESA consumer protection and PoPIA legal advisor, says that direct marketing is defined by the PoPI Act “as any means to approach a data subject, either in person or by mail or electronic communication, for the direct or indirect purpose of promoting or offering to supply any goods or services in the ordinary course of business, or alternatively requesting a data subject to make a donation of any kind.”
He further explains that a data subject (defined in terms of the Act as any person on whose behalf a company holds personal information), may only be contacted for direct marketing purpose on two very specific situations: The data subject must consent to receive such communication; and the data subject must be an existing client of the business, whose information has been retrieved in the marketing of similar goods and services as those offered to the data subject and the data subject must have been provided with an opportunity to reasonably object at any time to their information being collected.
Fourie stresses that it is important to note that consent in this instance should always be obtained in writing, unless reasonably impossible, as the business will have the responsibility to prove that consent has been given by a data subject to process his or her information in the instance.
Get it right (both creatively and legislatively) and you’ll have charmed your customers standing head and shoulders above your competitor crowd. You’ll have been heard!