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Direct Marketing: The (Really) Good, the (Not So) Bad and the (Potentially Very) Ugly

Debora Haskel

Clint Eastwood fans will recognize “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” as the title of his great 1966 “spaghetti western.” Even if you have never seen the movie, you will recognize the theme song. The movie’s plot goes something like this:

In the Southwest during the Civil War, a mysterious stranger, played by Clint Eastwood representing the Good, and a Mexican outlaw played by Eli Wallach as the Bad, form an uneasy partnership. The Good turns in the Bad for the reward money, then rescues him just as he is being hanged. When the Good’s shot at the noose goes awry during one escapade, a furious Bad tries to have him murdered. The men re-team abruptly to beat out the Union Army and a sadistic criminal played by Lee Van Cleef as the Ugly, and find $20,000 that a soldier has buried in the desert.

What does this movie theme have to do with direct marketing? When Julie Shaffer from APTech proposed the movie title as a topic for APTech’s PRINT Innovation Exchange, my mind immediately went to targeting as the Good, Bad, and Ugly of today’s direct marketing. Whistle the theme song as I explain why.

Targeting in Direct Marketing: The Good

Targeting is good (some would say great) because it makes marketing more effective across all channels, especially when the first touchpoint in an acquisition campaign is direct mail. Targeting dramatically improves the chances that a consumer will take the desired action. These chances improve when targeting is used in an integrated approach across channels (aka omnichannel). Today’s consumer expects and desires an omnichannel relationship with brands. When the omnichannel experience is executed correctly, its sum will be greater than the parts. Best (goodest?) of all, how consumers engage in each channel drives higher response in all channels.

The Bad

Unfortunately, targeting can also be bad, and in some cases, very bad. If data collection is flawed, targeting becomes bad and will not save the campaign. The same applies to modeling and cadence. If the essential elements of targeting are flawed, targeting quickly becomes bad. When the offer or messaging are deemed by a consumer as creepy (or worse, an invasion of privacy), the action they take can move the needle to ugly.

Yes, the Ugly

In this analogy, ugly is a four-letter word played by GDPR and CCPA. CCPA came to life when a consumer felt his privacy was being invaded and he had the financial means and legislative connections to demonstrate his resolve. Marketers are being advised to stop talking about targeting because it has ugly connotations for consumers who say they don’t want marketers to decide what they “see;” they want to be given the choice. (Yes, these are the same consumers who complain when exposed to marketing that doesn’t interest them at that moment.)

What would Clint Eastwood do to resolve this? He would apply best practices for targeting and work with trade associations like ANA/DMA to protect consumers while preserving opportunities for brands and marketers to access and share consumer data. Like the buried treasure in the movie, it’s a pot of gold worth joining forces and working together to find. Contact me here if you want to learn more about IWCO Direct’s best practices for targeting (or if you want to have a whistling contest).

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2019/08/14/direct-marketing-targeting/
Debora Haskel

Author

Debora Haskel

Vice President Marketing and Corporate Communications. Graduate of Syracuse University. Member of the Forbes Communications Council. Bringing the “there’s no such thing as good enough” philosophy to IWCO Direct since 2000. Single Source Award winner while at Banta, antique auction aficionado, and New York Yankees supporter since age 4.

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