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April 19, 2006


Iain Henderson

Yes, SXIP and quite a few others are active in this space - to the extent that I think change in the direct marketing industry might happen sooner than you think.

When the individual is more empowered by technology (and ultimately by legislation) then they are able to articulate their 'needs' to organisations in ways that do want involve the current DM processes - pull from the individuals rather than push to the individual will be possible. These articulated needs amount to an 'intent to buy' data stream, and where that exists the direct marketing/ CRM industry won't be far behind.

Morriss Partee

Here's a company working on person-centric, person-controlled online identity: Sxip

I discovered the company because I like Guy Kawasaki, and Guy's blog referenced a speech by Steve Jobs for the Cupertino City Council, and that was in turn featured on a site about presenting, which has links to a fabulous talk given by Sxip's CEO.


For starters, I would hesitate to say I’m probably right on anything. The paradox of the business, and even society, is that there are no right answers. We’re all just forwarding personal opinions, hoping the opinions may lead to better systems, solutions and more.

You wrote, “But equating emotion with ‘creative’ sounds to me like 1980s advertising agency messaging-speak.” Perhaps. But I also contend that the majority of direct marketers in the U.S. are working like 1980s advertising agencies on certain levels.

While the more progressive U.S. direct marketers (progressive U.S. direct marketers being an oxymoron, in my opinion) are utilizing contemporary methods for gathering data and focusing lists, they are almost prehistoric in creating messages. The general belief is that the straightforward offer is the message — versus trying to make the offer relevant and meaningful to the receiver. Even the response results are tabulated in terms of numbers versus trying to ascertain why people responded.

Business people who spend most of their time viewing consumers as numbers are not best suited to create emotional connections, in my opinion. That’s why I believe the revolutionaries in the quest to build trust in direct marketing will probably come from the creative department — or account planners. In U.S. direct marketing agencies, there are few true account planners, contrary to anything the agencies might claim.

I believe that almost all decisions ultimately have a strong emotional component (that’s hopefully not a unique perspective). People make decisions for personal and emotional reasons. I also believe that most U.S. direct marketers think people make decisions for primarily rational reasons.

I believe that the divisions between direct marketing and brand advertising are continuing to blur, especially with the accelerating evolution of new media. Direct marketing must become more emotionally-driven, just as advertisers are demanding that brand advertising must become more sales-driven (or more like direct marketing, if you will). In the U.S., most direct marketing agencies do not have enough people in ANY department who are viewing the work for emotional drivers like trust.

I think you build trust by showing you understand the customers’ needs, desires, behavior, etc. You build trust by showing respect to individuals.

In the U.S., direct marketers do not show respect to individuals.

But this is all just my opinion.

Alan Mitchell

You are probably right. People who make their money doing old things in old ways find it very difficult to be pioneers. In a sense, that is why we formed the BCCF (www.rightsideup.net) - to encourage pioneering which, in this case, will almost certainly come from outside the industry.

I would pick you up on one point though. You say, "Building trust is an emotional endeavour which places itself into the creative arena".

I don't think I agree with this. Yes, absolutely, trust is a very emotional thing. But equating emotion with 'creative' sounds to me like 1980s advertising agency messaging-speak.

I think you build trust by being trustworthy. The buyer-centric concept is about inventing new types of business that individuals have good reason to trust - because they make their money by acting for and on behalf those individuals.

BC is about personal services. Direct marketing is a corporate service. I think that's where the trust issue lies, not in 'data versus creative'.


Well, I can’t speak about the state of affairs in the U.K. But I have toiled in direct marketing and general advertising agencies in the U.S. Both specialties could benefit from a new business model. And both will probably refuse to explore such possibilities, at least in our lifetimes.

When I worked in direct marketing, I was surprised to see the alleged exactness of the trade is pretty suspect at times. Results can vary based on the services used to track information; that is, I literally witnessed response rates change after filtering the numbers through different measuring services. And like research conducted by general advertising agencies, direct marketers are skilled at putting positive spins on any less-than-stellar response. Direct marketing may be more measurable than general advertising, but it employs an equal share of hucksters.

The difficulty direct marketers will have adopting a new business model lies in the paradigm shift that would need to happen. Direct marketing is primarily obsessed with data and lists. Creative usually receives about 20 percent of the overall efforts. But building trust is an emotional endeavor, which places it into the creative arena. Until direct marketing respects and embraces the creative component — which would require wholesale staffing upheavals in most direct marketing shops — don’t expect any revolutionary changes.

In this age of brand managers seeking instant sales gratification, direct marketing continues to enjoy growing popularity. Which ultimately makes it even more improbable that folks will explore improvements.


I agree with you. The direct marketing industry is awash with rhetoric about building trust, relationships and dialogue with consumers - about 'getting closer' - but its day-to-day practice belies this rhetoric.

I suppose in this posting I was trying to make two points.

1) if you seriously want to build trust, relationships, dialogue and so on, you actually need a different business model: one that works for the individual; one that providers supplier relationship management rather than customer relationship management, for example. Or an Added Value Buying Service (AVBS) that helps individuals find and access value from the market, rather than marketing strategies designed to find customers and access value from them.

Whether direct marketers' talk of trust, relationship and dialogue is bare-faced lying or a heartfelt and genuine quest, the point is, it's not going to happen within the current framework, which gives individuals no reason to invest their time, effort, attention, information etc in the process.

2) Ironically, as AVB services, supplier relationship management and other services emerge to gain critical mass, sellers who cooperate with them will discover they have an enormous amount to gain. Because these services can solve the problems of efficient buyer/seller connection that direct marketing cannot.


Your post is right on so many levels. But it ignores a major problem at the heart of direct marketing. Direct marketers don’t give a shit about individual people’s concerns — or even collective people’s concerns. The basic tactic (at least in the U.S.) is to drop a message on a mass amount of people; and if even 1 percent responds, it’s usually considered a tremendous victory. In other words, direct marketers are completely fine if 99 percent of the audience ignores, rejects or absolutely hates the message. Direct marketers are not interested in gaining trust and asking consumers to volunteer information; rather, they’re seeking to make a sale by interrupting and disrupting people’s sensibilities. In direct marketing, people are not people. They are numbers.

Of course, most direct marketers will probably dispute my rants.

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