The more things change: Ben Goodale on the renewed relevance of direct marketing

We were fortunate enough to have a very senior client in the office recently to talk to the agency about where they are taking their business, and particularly the rise of multi-channel and what it means to them.  

Encompassed in this conversation were words and phrases like email, big data, online, second screening, smartphones, apps and personalised shopping.  And what strikes me about all this new buzz is that it is still fundamentally direct marketing.

Wikipedia describes it thus: “Direct marketing messages emphasise a focus on the customer, data and accountability. Hence, besides the actual communication, creation of actionable segments, pre- and post-campaign analytics and measurement of results, are integral to any good direct marketing campaign.”

What could be more relevant in today’s marketplace than direct marketing? Communications are getting more personalised, data is getting bigger and more sophisticated and accountability is increasingly important. Little wonder that advertising is changing at such a rate of knots. But having the skills within your team to understand this is becoming harder as there simply aren’t enough people with the right experience to go around.

So, in many ways, most marketers involved in comms work are becoming direct marketers by stealth. And the new channels are being adopted by classic direct marketers who generally have a more end-to-end approach to these channels than classic advertising-focused marketers.

So how does this apply to newer channels? 

Social media

This means that the work to capture people on Facebook needs to be driven into an actionable database, sales visits or active leads for a brand, not just a set of likes. Migrating likes beyond Facebook is really important as part of leveraging an engagement strategy, for example onto an email permission list.


A smartphone app is an indicator of customer engagement. How many times have you opened it, how long have you spent on it, what are you doing on it, recency of use etc. All the data is there to be analysed, and then fed back potentially through a multi-channel communication strategy (for instance, push notifications, in-app messaging, email, instore action).

Streaming media

The data that digital streaming provides has huge commercial value for future contact strategies. If people have to login to view, you know what they watch, frequency, etc, so you can serve ads to them on this basis but also know what you should be retargeting them with in terms of programme promos, upsell and commercial partnerships.  

Dual screening

Even without streaming you can create direct marketing connections with TV viewers through engaging strategies that drive people to online content from programming and TVCs, and then engage them in both short-term (during the screening) and long-term conversations, which can be conducted through social media, direct marketing or smartphone activities. 

Viral content

How can a viral video can be direct? It could be as simple as: produce a piece of content that people simply have to watch, seed it out to your database if you have it (otherwise use alternative media engagement), and have a clear call to action at the end of the video and a landing point, which is all about data capture.  A great example of this is Dollar Shave Club, which created a cracking piece of video and made sure everyone who watched it visited the website for more. From there, you have a database and can start to have all sorts of fun and games with them.  

So, direct marketing is alive and well and increasingly living in more and more aspects of people’s lives, and therefore the demand for direct marketing skills and know-how is simply going to exponentially increase.  

  • Ben Goodale is managing director of justONE and .99.   
  • This story originally appeared in the September/October edition of NZ Marketing.

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