Who said that offline DM is dead?

I remember sitting in a lecture during the second year of my university degree; the lecture was addressing direct and database relationship marketing. It was the toughest time of the week due to being last thing on Friday, and try as I might the idea of learning about offline direct marketing was a struggle. I recall my frustrated self, besieged with a concept that I just could not grasp. How, could the annoying marketing communications that I regarded as junk ever affect my decision to buy into a brand?

Within industry, the term DM is sometimes misconstrued, many assume it regards offline communications but really, it can come in the form of pretty much any marketing channel. Email marketing, for example, is a growing comms strategy, with brands utilising data capture, trend analysts and segmentation to create content relevant, added value messages which strike gold with recipients. The use of specialist techniques such as personalisation are cutting through the clutter of our inboxes and engaging with us. Brands that are on top form are now integrating their social strategies to actually invite involvement and initiate a two-way conversation.

ASOS’s celebrity Christmas card generator invitation invited recipients to visit their page and personalise a social-card stating a bold “Laters Christmas Cards”. This integration invited customers not only to “like” the page, but to engage, in an interesting and fun way which is relevant to the customer segment. There are countless articles expressing opinions on the value of a “like” and this DM strategy is creating a synergist between the database of active, lapsed and prospect customers and converting them to social players in the realm of digital interaction.

It’s getting easier to praise marketers on the email/social successes, but the importance of getting it right prevails as archival examples haunt the bridge between email and social. Recalling the Toyota disaster from 2009 in a recent case study, it is apparent that a wrong move in this channel can be disastrous for brand reputation. The campaign was dubbed “terror marketing” and resulted in a PR nightmare as the hoax email campaign combining MySpace caused emotional distress to recipients.

However, the trigger that sparked the blog this evening was not one from the digital sphere. Rather, I was particularly impressed by a piece of marketing which I have previously referred to within this article as “junk” and “unable to sway my purchasing decisions”. Alas, a piece of traditional direct marketing made its way to me today and I encouraged my first piece of independent blogging. So, my congratulations to The Dog’s Doodahs for prominently attracting me to sift through the swarm of local supermarket promotions, taxi business cards and the local church newsletter and find their personalised Thank You card sat atop my desk being written about in the premier of my blog writing!

To set the scene, I have been treading water, juggling writing a dissertation project, numerous group assignments and a part-time job serving chicken in a well-known peri-peri establishment and I am ashamed to admit by dear Mother’s birthday got slightly demoted for a split [week]. This prompted a panic situation whereby I sifted through the life-saving Moonpig website. The unfortunate situation worsened as an unspoken competition between my sister and I to send the funniest/most thoughtful/witty greeting cards to our parents threatened my current leadership, as the cards presented were simply not hitting the witty relevancy my family have come to expect from me. In a brave and bold Google search, I stumbled upon The Dog’s Doodahs, located a card, personalised and ordered within 10 minutes and sat back, exasperated. 

I had opted in to marketing communications at data capture stage, and was interested to see what email campaigns The Dog’s Doodahs would embark on, as the personality of the website and the tone of voice displayed a quirky-weirdness which although sometimes cheddar-like, I quite enjoyed it.

The card was received before my mother’s birthday and I am still top of my game. Not only was I impressed by the product selection and speed of service experienced on the site, I have been contacted by a channel which I have previously regarded as old and annoying in an engaging manner. The Thank You card reflects the brand personality in a quirky way whilst allowing the product quality and service to be experienced in a tangible way.

Firstly, the speed it was sent >within 7 days< demonstrates the company’s ability to distribute quickly. The cards front cover is personalised and identifies that “She’d only been a customer for a short while…” which indicates that customer acquisition recognition is not only present, but acknowledged which is integral in successful CRM campaigns. Additionally, a quirky dig at the card as they dub it a “shameless piece of marketing masquerading as a Thank You card….” Lightens the tone and although contains the word marketing, takes the pressure off the ‘hard sell’. The light-hearted message made me open the card, I was intrigued.

Inside, the quirky branding continues and has a social link which ties in “fun and frolics” as a benefit for engaging. The message inside carries the brands personality in their distinctive British tones whereby you can almost imagine the TV/Radio campaign which could accompany it, even though you haven’t seen any. The sign off, from “Those Nice People” proposes the brands personality as accessible and approachable. These are of the utmost importance to dotcom enterprises due to increasing customer need for being able to contact a human being rather than receiving automated replies. The promotion with the card is added as a P.S message, pushing the £20 subscription to pre-pay which gets you £5 free credit. Am I convinced by this sales push? Not really… but that is due to my usual exemplary ability to arrange my greeting cards in a timely fashion, avoid postage costs and write my own message the old-fashioned way. However, as my time schedule is taken up by demanding university commitments and the terribly daunting task of being catapulted into the ravenous world of advertising graduates the need for this type of service may just be of more need to me than it has in the past. The Dog’s Doodahs have demonstrated an enhancement factor beyond my expectations, which in return has positioned them firmly within my brand repertoire. In addition to this, they used a channel for which demonstrated their core competency of postal mailings, which competitors fail to do. Moonpigs un-engaging subject lines rarely persuade me to open the predictive messages they send and potentially, had The Dog’s Doodahs used email; their message would have probably been ignored. So, “Pip Pip!” indeed, to Those Nice People at The Dog’s Doodah’s, I’m genuinely looking forward to you livening up my post box soon.