Monday, March 24, 2008

Direct Marketing and Common Sense: An Expert's Opinion

As I try to carve out and validate the role of “common sense” in the world of marketing, I thought it might be interesting to seek out experts in various marketing arenas to find out where common sense fit in their marketing philosophy…

My first victim in this endeavor is direct marketing expert Edward Hrybenko. As Vice President and Director of Marketing Communications and Investor Relations at OppenheimerFunds, Inc., Ed oversees direct marketing strategies and initiatives for over 75 mutual funds and various other investment products offered by the firm.

Here is what Ed has to say…

Dipti: In your opinion, does “common sense” matter world of marketing? Why?
Ed: Absolutely. Common sense keeps you from making significant mistakes and wasting marketing dollars. At times we are all caught up in what we need to sell/market or what we want to say, that we become blind the obvious. The key is stepping back from a project and putting yourself in the shoes of the recipient of your marketing message. That gives you the chance to re-think your message, your audience, your design, etc. Just ask yourself, “If I was a (insert target audience here), would I respond to this?” If not, ask yourself why.

Dipti: Where does common sense fit in the world of direct marketing?
Ed: Common sense is the counter-balance to data and science. I’ve seen people insist that a mailing must be successful because the data modeling says so. I’ve yet to see a model respond to marketing. You need “people” to respond to your message and fortunately we all have experience being people. While you need to know the science (how a person reads, how many times you need to convey a message for it to stick, etc) you also need to use your common sense and experience when marketing. The key is balancing the science and common sense. You can’t go too far the other way and let your personal biases guide all your decisions.

Dipti: What is your most favorite direct marketing blunder …one which could have been prevented with a little common sense?
Ed: I was working at a top direct marketing-oriented financial firm and they ran a full page product launch ad in the Wall Street Journal. The ad was great but the company forgot to turn on the phone number so consumers couldn’t respond. Had somebody put themselves in the shoes of the consumer they would have checked on the consumer’s experience when responding to the ad.

Dipti: What’s the best common sense tip that you have ever received?
Ed: Beware Murphy’s law. If something can go wrong, it will.

Dipti: Can you give us 5 common sense tips that can make a direct marketing campaign successful?
1. Find time to step back from your project and put yourself in the shoes of the message recipient.
2. Make sure you get the basics right. There are many details in every marketing campaign, but the biggest mistakes happen on the basics.
3. Don’t be blinded by data. If you really don’t think something will work, don’t try to convince yourself it will.
4. Don’t be complacent with creative. “Good enough” is rarely good enough. Push for creativity.
Collaborate. Leveraging differing points of view can ensure marketing success.

Pushing the Envelope

How often do you get important looking envelopes from important looking addresses marked URGENT FINANCIAL INFORMATION or TIME SENSITIVE MATERIAL… and they contains nothing urgent at all?

I understand that the burden of whether or not a mailer will be opened falls mostly on the envelope. And having worked on over 100 direct mail campaigns over the years, I have sat in on many brainstorming sessions to decide not just what goes in the envelope but what goes on it. But getting your mailer opened by creating a false sense of urgency or just misrepresenting the content takes it too far. Do marketers really think that lying will help the brand sell?

Here are some common sense tips that don’t involve lying but may increase the likelihood of your mailer being opened.

- Try unusual color, odd sizes or shapes
- Personalize
- Make it relevant: develop content based on audience segmentation to ensure relevancy.
- Just simply define the benefit/offer if there is a strong one
- User a teaser
- Don’t target the same audience excessively….and if you do need to mail regularly, keep it fresh

Monday, March 10, 2008

Brand Extensions.... what to keep in mind...

As I continue to ramble, I want to reiterate (one more time) that most of what I say in this blog may not seem like rocket science. And its not. But as we strive to over perform in our professional/personal roles, it’s the very basic and seemingly mundane concepts that we take for granted....

That said; let’s go back to the world of brand extensions. What are the 5 things to keep in mind when considering a brand extension?

Top 5 things to consider:

1. The brand should have equity and awareness in the market....if the brand isn’t recognizable, the extension is pointless

2. The extension should be a logical fit for the consumer. There should be synergy (and that’s why Trump Steak didn’t work)

3. The extension should make business sense.

4. Look out for over-extension - avoid slapping the brand name on everything possible.

5. For the extension, select a permeable category - not an over-saturated category with strong market leaders.


Sure, brand extensions are popular.. and some are actually successful. Think Oprah's O Magazine, Pet Smart's Smart Hotel, Nike Sports wear....

But what do you say when Hasbro comes up with a colonge to celebrate Play-Doh's 50th anniversary.
According to the folks at Hasbro the fragrance is meant for highly-creative people, who seek a whimsical scent reminiscent of their childhood...."Close your eyes and you're back in kindergarten all over again! It's amazing how the scent of Play-Doh can take you to another time and place. "


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

10 Steps to Direct Marketing Success

I came across a great post on direct marketing....

Check out "Direct Marketing: A Science of Stupidities" by Eric Weaver on this blog "ad-verse"

Warning: It is a little verbose. So if you find yourself losing interest, scroll all the way down to the section called Weaver's Snarky, Sanctimonious Ten Steps

Audience Dilemma

Here is what marketers have to decide very often, especially when their target audience consists of a diverse demographic - Should my initiative/ communication cater to the lowest common denominator or to the majority?

In this particular case, we are redesigning our product website and the question of the hour is - should we have a Flash on the homepage or not? One group feels that not everyone has Flash on their computers and so we should just stick with a static image....where as the Flash proponents feel that Flash will add to the visual appeal of the website and also provide messaging opportunities...

While my common sense usually pushes me in the direction of simplification and "idiot proofing" everything....I am with the Flash proponents on this one. Why? 85% of internet users have Flash. And most importantly, it adds value by not just making the page more visually appealing but helps delivering multiple messages ( for example, each frame can address a different benefit)

Here is an interesting article that speaks to the issue:

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

common sense marketing...not without creativity

When I talk about common sense marketing, I by no means elude to dull and boring (or safe) marketing strategies. While one rarely hears creativity and common sense in the same breath, they go more hand in hand than you would ever imagine.

In my opinion…creativity allows you the freedom to think "out of the box”, and common sense helps keep that out of the box paradigm “real”.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Apple is the new # 1

Fortune magazine just unveiled its list of America's Most Admired Companies in the World...and the fact that Apple topped the list doesnt come as a surprise to most.

What is the Apple mantra -- innovation, simplicity and the fact that its product works!

Hats off to Steve Jobs and his team ...

Second Life Sceptic

I opened a Second Life account a year and a half back... And how many times have I been back since - not even once. I can bet that out of the 7 million residents that Second Life claims to have, most are like me… curious but not convinced.

As a consumer and as a marketer, i am not convinced by all the hullabaloo over Second Life. And I attribute the crazy rush for brands to become a part of this landscape, more to herd mentality that smart marketing.

Sure, Second Life found itself on the cover of Business Week and it can claim to have over 7 million residents...but before getting carried away with the media hype, marketers must do their due diligence...

Here is what Wired has to say -

Marketing Objective

I came across a quote in an old issue of Brandweek recently which really resonated with my maketing philosophy of keeping it simple..and real

In an article about creative marketing at Kimberly-Clark, CMO Tony Palmer defined his company's marketing objective as:

"It is to sell more "stuff" to more people, for more money, more often"

Sure, its not poetic....and it lacks jargon like brand, experience and promise...but thats what (in my humble opinion) makes it so effective.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Design vs. Functional Design

Spent sometime today looking at the nominees and the winners of the Webby Awards 2007. The Webbys honor the best work in the online design, copy, useability etc...

What is re-assuring to see is that visual design and functional visual design are different categories. And while this may not seems like that big a deal, it forms the crux of intelligent website design.

Check out the winners in each of the categories to see the difference..

Winner for Visual Design :

Winner for Functional Visual Design:

Feedback? Would love to hear some...