Exploring Dynamic Direct Marketing Trends and Strategies

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With the strategic use of optichannel marketing, “You can truly deliver the right message to the right consumer at the right time,” according to Lily Harder, former senior director of Marketing Strategy at Comperemedia. Harder explored the importance of optichannel marketing during a recent hour-long BRAND United webinar, “Dynamic Direct Marketing Solutions for a Multichannel World.”

Harder explained that many marketers are still operating in a multi-channel or cross-channel stage, “where they take a unified message and present it to customers and prospects across a variety of channels.” But marketers need to move past this stage and start implementing omni- or optichannel solutions.

“We really need to move beyond [the multi-channel or cross-channel stage] and think either omnichannel or optichannel,” Harder said. “What I mean by omnichannel is the idea of unifying channels together, not necessarily with the same message, but the messages across the channels come together to create more of a holistic experience for the end-consumer. If you really want to think ahead where marketers should be focusing their sights … it’s the idea of optichannel.”

Optichannel, as Harder explains, incorporates not only the channels available but also the technology and data behind them. This means being able to tailor the message via the use of data, through personalization or trigger-based marketing.

Overall Marketing Trends

All messaging, regardless of channel, needs to work together in a cohesive, holistic way. Keeping that in mind, Harder revealed four key trends for what marketers can expect in 2021 and beyond, and how to harness these trends in optichannel marketing campaigns.

  1. Video Takes Center Stage – Video grew in popularity during the pandemic as people stayed at home and engaged with more video and streaming content. It will continue to have an impact, and since it lends itself to a lot of opportunities, it could be an important part of brands’ optichannel campaigns.
  2. Niche Audiences on the Rise – Brands have been targeting niche audiences more regularly. Not just targeting by demographics, such as age or race, but thinking on a larger scale, such as geographic targeting versus mass marketing. For example, brands could consider targeting individuals based on “fandoms” for a particular event or cause, playing off of a commonality among them.
  3. Connecting on a Local Level – Marketers are looking to connect with people more on a local level, something that surged during the pandemic.
  4. Podcasts and Social Media Influencer Marketing Prove their Worth – “We’re still in the early days of podcasts and social media and brands are still experimenting with them,” Harder says. But the data shows that audiences of those channels are very receptive because they are more niche audiences.

Print is Still Powerful

Harder closed out her portion of the session by describing why there continues to be a place for printed media within the optichannel mix.

“A lot of what is leading this is the advances in technology,” she said. “Just because it’s a traditional channel, doesn’t mean it can’t take advantage of the technological advances that are out there.”

One of those advances is QR codes. Not only has there been an increase in the use of QR codes on printed materials, but also growth in the use of them among consumers, she explained.

“Consumers are more receptive … but you have to give recipients a reason to click on the QR code,” Harder said. “There has to be a meaningful reason to actually do it.”

To solidify this point, Harder shared some examples of direct mail and digital experiences that successfully integrated QR codes to amplify the end-user experience.

Lily Harder shares some examples of QR codes used successfully.

Lily Harder shared some examples of QR codes used successfully.

Strategies to Target Consumers

Following Harder’s exploration of direct marketing trends, Cyndi Greenglass, SVP, Strategic Solutions, OSG, discussed the five emerging post-COVID segments: affordability first, health first, planet first, society first, and experience first.

With the base understanding of what are important segments moving forward, Greenglass went on to explain some of the emerging trends influenced by well-known “old truths” in marketing in comparison to their “new truth” counterparts. Two examples Greenglass presented were knowing your customer segment and the new competition:

  • “Marketing Begins with Knowing Your Customer Segment” – It used to be believed that marketing began with knowing your customer, but now understanding how to personalize their experience has become the most important component.
  • “You Are Competing with the Last Best Experience Your Customer Had” – This new way of thinking is in contrast to the old belief that “You are competing with your competitors.” This rings true even more so after the past year-and-a-half, which put the customer experience in focus during the pandemic. “If you [aren’t] paying attention to the customer experience, you will lose that customer,” she said.

Greenglass echoed Harder’s point that marketers need to adopt an optichannel approach and target consumers where they are.

“We know that consumers are becoming more digital-first, but they are not digital-only,” she said. This means it’s crucial to consider where a brand is in its digital transformation and how customers will come along with the brand on their journey.

Finally, Greenglass explored the differences and advantages of both trigger direct mail and programmatic direct mail. She gave examples of successful marketing campaigns that utilized both forms of targeted mail and how to implement it in future campaigns.

Cyndi Greenglass described the five emerging post-COVID segments.

Cyndi Greenglass described the five emerging post-COVID segments.

Format Matters

Wrapping up the session, Mike Gunderson, founder of Gunderson Direct, explained the benefits of different forms of direct marketing with real-life examples to illustrate the points. He said that postcards are leading the way because they are effective and cost-efficient. Although there has been a resurgence of low-cost formats, he urged marketers not to discount the traditional letter package.

One trend he is seeing in the traditional letter package though is that they’re shorter.

“Less copy, work harder,” he said. “With better targeting and good messaging, we’re seeing a better response” without using a long letter format.

Mike Gunderson reviewed some of the copy used by marketers following the beginning of the pandemic.

Mike Gunderson reviewed some of the engaging copy that can be used by marketers to show empathy.

He also stressed that it’s important to be empathetic during and after the pandemic, but to move to more positive messaging where possible.

“It’s OK to mention the past,” he said, “but don’t dwell on it.”

Dynamic Direct Marketing Solutions for a Multichannel World” is available now on Register today to listen to the full session on-demand.