Archive for the Direct Marketing Category

UK economic situation and what it means for direct marketers

Posted in Direct Marketing, International Marketing, UK on 05/03/2009 by Richard Gibson

Before writing this column I looked back at an article I’d written for this magazine [Direct Marketing International] back in July of last year, some six months ago. Like this column its focus is the UK economy and what it may mean for direct marketers.

In the middle of last year inflation was rising and despite the slowing of the credit markets consumer sales were still buoyant. However as I write this in mid January 2009 most of the readers will be aware of the increasing signs of economic woe. The second half of 2008 was peppered with negative signs. Indeed the government’s own statistical department announced what many had already feared but may not acknowledged that the economy’s GDP shrank by 0.6% in Q3 and 1.5% in Q4 (source: Office for National Statistics) and that by doing so met the definition of a recession i.e. two negative quarters of growth. With the economic contraction comes rising unemployment and with that decreased spending. It is no wonder then that a poll by ICM/The Guardian newspaper of UK consumers in December found 86% of those surveyed plan to make cutbacks on their spending, with only 13% thinking that they would spend as much in 2009 as they did in 2008 (source:  ICM/The Guardian).

Decreasing levels of inflation, a small cut in VAT (sales tax) and significant drops in The Bank of England base rate, currently at 1.5% (down from 5.0% for most of 2008 and 5.75% at a high for some of the later part of 2007) all designed to ease fears have seemingly done little to curb the growing economic position to: negative.

I believe that there are two camps about how the recession may play out in the UK at least for direct marketers. There are those that are bullish about the industry and those that are slightly more bearish. The bulls tend to be those that believe that because of the measurability the direct marketing industry is well placed to ride out the economic situation in this country. The bears tend to be more cautionary (as is their nature) principally because the last time the UK economy was truly in a recession (early 1990’s) the internet, and by this I include email marketing, as an advertising channel did not exist. The truth is perhaps somewhere in between.

The IPA’s (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) respected Bellwether Report for Q4 2008, released in mid January suggests further reduction in spending and offers some supporting arguments to both the bulls and the bears. The reports author Chris Williamson does indeed show the largest reduction for media, with direct marketing also showing a reduction, indeed even Internet search shows a reduction in spending, albeit significantly less than direct marketing and media.

For 2009 marketers, direct or interactive have a challenge on their hands as the UK consumer adjusts spending habits accordingly. The battle ever more is around increasing effectiveness, most probably with static or likely declining budgets whilst at the same time trying to recruit new customers.

For the suppliers the challenge for some will be around staying competitive and fighting to keep their products in front of potential buyers and users. For others it can be about growth. A recession, whilst painful for all concerned tends to shake out weaker companies and survival and maintenance of a strong position potentially leads to far stronger prospects once growth occurs. Whilst I had previously written in this column about evidence from Prof. Patrick Barwise around strategies based on his research from the last recession, principally that those brands that do best post-recession tend to be those that invest during the recession. Anecdotal evidence, for example the latest Bellwether Report appears to suggest that very few brands are in a position to take this advice on board.

If further evidence was needed about direct mail volumes being squeezed, research from Billets (a media monitoring agency) reported via DM Bulletin show a decrease of close to 40% (Source: DM Bulletin) from November 2007 to November 2008 in terms of total volume. That said, separating customer and prospect mailings is as always a thorny issue.

Note: a slightly shorter version of this post appears as an article in the print and digital edition of the January/February 2009 issue of Direct Marketing International magazine.

References used in this post:

Barwise, Patrick (1999) Advertising in a Recession: The Benefits of Investing for the Long Term.

DM Bulletin

ICM/The Guardian

IPA (Institute of Practioners in Advertising) Bellwether report, accessed 01/03/09.


Personalisation in direct mail, two recent examples

Posted in B2B, B2C, Database, Direct Marketing, Not for profit, UK on 22/01/2009 by Richard Gibson

Arriving amongst two other seminar invitations today was this one. Obviously it stuck out, massively in fact. It is well designed and rife with personalisation. On the outer alone I count seven uses of data driven personalisation including most frequently my name, company, job title and once on the addressing my academic award. I thought I’d share it as it is an effective use of data elements that most B2B brands will have access to.

Upon opening it up there are plenty more data driven elements mostly similar to the outer and using the creative treatment of the newspaper to show me a quote from myself on what I can get out of data [the event].

IDM Data Council Summit, Front 1 of 2 - 22-01-09

You can see the reverse of this piece, with further personalisation here.

After receiving the IDM piece I was reminded of a similar piece I had recently received from Cancer Research UK. This was as a direct result of a small donation I had made in the form of sponsoring someone.

Cancer Research UK, outside 1 of 2 - 2008

Although I am posting it in January 2009 I did actually make the donation and receive the piece last year, with the sponsorship in the summer and the mail piece arriving in around November 2008. The reverse of the addressing immediately caught my attention. Upon receipt I could not recall what I did on 17th July 2008. It turns out Cancer Research UK remembered what I did.
Cancer Research UK, inside 2 of 2 - 2008

Again, a great use of data driven personalisation. Because the captured the data, they have used the information to maximum effect. Upon opening the above tells me the name of the person I sponsored, the amount, the event that person participated in and how much the event raised for Cancer Research UK.

The piece goes on to request further donations to support the work of Cancer Research UK and makes a good enough case for doing so. The data elements were collected through the Just Giving web platform, at which point there is a consent question where the brand ask permission to contact the donor in the future.

The key data elements are potentially more hard hitting in the second piece, there are more of them and it is within the not for profit sector but in fairness to both brands they are using the data that they both have to exceptionally good effect.

International Address Guide

Posted in Database, Direct Marketing, International Marketing on 02/01/2009 by Richard Gibson

SwissPost have released their International AddressGuide which contains a reasonable amount of information on 22 markets (demography,address format etc). And then in more depth an overview of data sources in each country along with more detailed information on who the key providers of data sources are along with contact information. Furthermore introductory pages contain useful tips on address formatting, translation of some technical terms as well as a glossary.

Any guide is a useful starting point before international expansion but suppliers in individual countries need to be selected with care as do the individual lists they represent so as to ensure particularly with prospect data sourcing the lists most likely to succeed are used. The guide is further of use to essentially size the market as part of the overall planning process.

Whilst suppliers are listed, actual lists or data sources other than those offered by list owners are not.  This isn’t neccesarily a drawback provided it is understood by  the user what services the supplier offers and which data sources they are recommending and why.

SwissPost are to be congratulated for putting together such a volume, with close to 300 pages. All in all a useful guide as a starting point when looking for international data sources. In the package I was sent came a very useful International Holiday Calendar for 2009, showing key holidays by country and a helpful European postcode map.

You can order your copy here.

International Address Guide - Consumer and business addresses from 22 countries - SwissPost

References used in this post

International AddressGuide: Consumer and business addresses from 22 countries (2008), SwissPost.