For many marketers, digital marketing and direct mail couldn’t be further apart, but one characteristic they share is that they both benefit significantly from the ability to leverage data to reach the target audience.
For Vish Ramkissoon, vice-president, decision sciences with Publicis Hawkeye, the explosion of digital data has pushed the potential for both digital and direct mail marketing to new levels.
“The technological expansion over the last five years rivals anything that’s happened in the past quarter-century,” he says. “It’s an exciting time to be in marketing, because technology has really enabled us to push the needle.”
Ramkissoon knows what he’s talking about. He cut his teeth in marketing on the information technology side, where he learned how the power of information, married to state-of-the-art technology could to push direct mail marketing campaigns. He’s got news for companies tied to legacy marketing systems and last year’s marketing playbook:
“Bite the bullet, become more technologically agile and become more relevant to your customers — or get buried by the competition.”
Marketing Integration: Greater than the sum of its parts
Ramkissoon preaches interconnected marketing, where direct mail, e-mail, text messages, banners and traditional advertising are all vital components of the marketing arsenal and are linked to each other thematically through consistent messaging.
“The channel isn’t as important as executing on the right channel at the right time,” he says.
“But the messaging should optimize the call to action to maximize the benefits of the channel you receive it on.”
Most recently, a study conducted by Canada Post, Connecting for Action, was the first of its kind in the world to look at the impact of integrating direct mail with digital media. According to the study, integrated campaigns that include direct mail elicit greater consumer attention and more effectively provoke the emotional engagement and brand recall that drive action, attracting 39 per cent more attention than single media campaigns. The study also showed that media sequencing matters. When direct mail follows digital media, there will be the greatest impact on customer engagement by 40%.
Ramkissoon notes that marketers already have the tools to customize direct mail with personalized precision, speaking to consumers according to their preferences and interests. Net-based digital marketing hub software does the heavy lifting by ingesting data and forming a decision based on such parameters as predictive analytics, observed behaviour or a decision tree. It then orchestrates the next step, whether supplying targeted web banners, a customized web experience, e-mail or direct mail.
“The data trail already exists and all of the information leveraged for digital can be applied to direct mail,” says Ramkissoon.
The importance of a physical touch point
“I see direct mail having its greatest effect through the tactile experience of opening that mail and enjoying a hyper-personalized experience,” says Ramkissoon. “I don’t care how creative it is, you can’t do that with an email. A beautifully crafted welcome kit sent directly to the new car owner will drive satisfaction and build brand loyalty. That says you’re not just buying a vehicle — you’re buying an experience.”
That concept is top-of-mind for Tina Lavigne Lind, director, marketing solutions and innovation (digital and multi-platform) at Canada Post.
“We’ve been focusing on product innovation and connective solutions to enhance the direct mail experience so that it can be activated in the most user-friendly way,” she says. “We have the ability to connect those experiences with every single household in Canada and 800,000 small businesses. When you apply the right data criteria to a campaign, you can reach any group with pinpoint accuracy.”
Lind says direct mail works brilliantly in concert with digital through retargeting. Consumers who log out of a website just before completing a purchase might be irritated to be followed around by banner ads and digital reminders. But being retargeted with physical mail isn’t subject to those objections.”
If you leave a website before buying a sofa, you can receive an offer in the mail two days later offering you a 20 per cent discount on that same sofa,” she says.
The opportunity to get creative
The Smartmail Marketing innovation incentive program launched by Canada Post intends to encourage marketers to explore new approaches to direct mail by leveraging its tactile benefits. Marketers can receive discounts for incorporating novel technologies into their direct mail programs, whether a textured envelope, the use of augmented reality or the application of scent to a letter.
Ramkissoon notes that there’s more marketing territory to be explored, specifically in seamlessly looping customers from direct mail back into the digital realm when it’s warranted.
“There’s definitely room for us to improve that connection,” he says.