Direct Marketing: T-Rex or Flinstone’s Vitamin?

By | July 12, 2010

By Julie Sullivan, VP Marketing W.A. Wilde

With social media being, well, everywhere, it was no surprise that it made its presence at the June NEDMA Awards in four new categories:

  1. Best SEO Campaign
  2. Best Twitter Page
  3. Best Blog
  4. Best Other Social Media (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)

What was surprising was the amount of entries in these categories – or lack thereof. Where competition was fierce in more traditional categories, there were only a sprinkling of entries in these new media categories. This is where I pause and ask the question, “Can someone please remind me, and all marketers, the true definition of direct marketing?”

From what I was taught and continue to practice, Direct Marketing really has two main principles:

  1. Engage in a one-to-one dialogue with your target audience
  2. Require your target audience to take some sort of action–call, click, move, you name it.

If you accept this definition, why is direct marketing synonymous with direct mail in so many marketers’ eyes? In the last five years or so, there has been no bigger trend than delivering relevant, personalized communications to build trust and credibility with your audience. For most companies that aren’t spending marketing dollars on broadband awareness campaigns, one-size-fits-all communications are passé–almost irresponsible in today’s marketing communications mix.

As a result, DR TV and radio, email, and yes even social media is about creating relevant, one-to-one dialogue with your target audience and motivating them to act in some way, shape, or form. If this is the case, why hasn’t direct marketing led the charge instead of being relegated to a category on the bar graph titled “direct mail” that decreases in size and budget year over year?

My plea to direct marketers is to strip the stigma of the red-headed stepchild that only creates unwanted credit card solicitations and rethink what it means to be a true direct marketer in this day and age.

How has your agency or company expanded the definition and importance of direct marketing for your business? Or is it thought of more as the dinosaur that used to have the stature of a T-Rex, but has shrunk to the size of a Flintstone vitamin?

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3 thoughts on “Direct Marketing: T-Rex or Flinstone’s Vitamin?

  1. Elizabeth

    Julie – I looked at the NEDMA site and saw the Wilde Agency had won “Best of Show” at NEDMA this year (nice picture by the way) and that your sister agency LW Robbins had won 15! Pretty impressive. Maybe you could share information on some of those award winning campaigns?

    Congratulations on the awards. Sounds like no one will be calling you guys dinosaurs (of any size!)

  2. Julie

    Thank you for the kind words. What’s critical for effective (and as a result award-winning) campaigns is sound strategy and skilled direct response creative practioners that understand best practices both off and online.

    Check out for some cool case studies.

  3. Ken Mears

    Great post, and I could not agree with you more and second your plea about shifting marketing ideals away from the archaic “outbound” practices that consist of direct mail, blitzing, cold-calling, and trade shows, or in short, intrusive marketing. The new revolution (and I truly believe that it is just that: a revolution) in marketing is permission based marketing, or “inbound” marketing. At the heart of this revolution is producing valuable content (or in the words of Brian Halligan ” ‘remark’ able content”); content that your target audience or market will be able to comment or remark on with their own thoughts and opinions, plus take away with a better understading of what their problems are and how your company provides their solution.

    The arena for potential customers to gain information to make informed decissions have changed. Google has over 10 billion searches a month, and if Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world based on its membership. Marketers need to realize that potential customers can search for all the information they could ever want on a given product in the comfort of their PJ’s. This shift in the marketplace is real, and it is by no means going away. The faster a company can subscribe to a sustainable online marketing strategy, the better their chances for survival are. Perhaps the best fact I’ve come across is that the true ROI on internet marketing is that your company will still be around in 5 years…Again, thanks for a great post!

    Ken Mears
    VP Internet Marketing
    Office Automation of Gainesville, Inc.

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