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Peter Field is a marketing consultant, former strategic ad planner and co-author of the renowned paper The Long and Short of It. Here, he uses mail as an example to argue that the current focus on short-term measurement is having damaging effects. Peter spoke with his long time collaborator Les Binet at the Effectiveness Week Genesis conference in November 2016. You can watch a video here.

This article originally appeared on www.mailmen.co.uk.

The digital revolution means that we’re seeing a massive shift towards short term marketing strategies. Instead of evaluations taking place over a year or more, which used to be the norm, people are increasingly looking back over weeks, days, perhaps even minutes.

 

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That is extremely damaging to effectiveness. We know (particularly when it comes to real-time evaluation) that it is leading brands to produce campaigns that maximise short-term effects. This, in turn, completely negates long-term success.

What actually drives growth in the long-term is sustained commitment behind some kind of emotional association or message – or something that gets brands talked about. These are, in the vast majority of cases, not to do with timely offers or indeed new product functionality, but emotional platforms. And that is what will be sacrificed in the future – really powerful long-term branding.

The Power of Mail

We know from research that good mail pieces live in the home for a long period of time. The nature of the message delivered, I would argue, has to be at least in part brand driven. It should engage. These words are commonly used, but to really engage and enthuse the consumer with the brand and give them something they actually want to hold on to is so important.

This brings me to another aspect that is often overlooked in direct mail, which is the play value – the physical, tactile nature of a mail piece. Perhaps it’s a three-dimensional mailer, perhaps it just has some fun built into it, but whatever it is, it means that your direct mail becomes more than just an information piece.

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There are individual case studies of where this has been done very well. EE produced a great example of effective direct mail – it involved a piece of cloth with a printed message on it, the idea being that when you’re with EE you make so much use of your phone and need to be able to clean the screen. Or Compare the Market, which has those collectable meerkat toys. It’s about playfulness, they warm us to the brand and make us feel they are on our side.

“These more playful, engaging mail pieces often end up being dramatically more effective.”

It goes to show that if you invest in production values, you have the ability to transform campaigns. Yes, it costs more. Most companies that use direct mail are driven by value per delivery run. But what they may have forgotten is that if you just drive down the cost you also drive down the value. These more playful, engaging mail pieces, the ones that took time and money and creative juice to develop, often end up being dramatically more effective.

Learning lessons from other channels

One of the biggest challenges that digital marketing faces is ad blocking. I personally think it’s been a very healthy development for the industry. I think that ad blocking may ultimately revolutionise the way people use online services.

“Good mail pieces live in the home for a long time, so their message has to be in part brand driven.”

Too many brands are obsessed with in-your-face sales messages, which are of course very short-term and widely disliked. If you are going to intrude on someone’s private grounds, you’d better earn the right to do so. And the way brands will earn that right is by developing advertising that is in some way rewarding and engaging. That’s the big lesson that’s being overlooked.

Agencies will do well if they learn directly from the TV industry, the lesson being to encourage the production of more entertaining advertising. I think this is what brands need to, and will, start to revisit. You’ve got to engage your consumers if you want to be effective. It’s so obvious. Nobody watches TV breaks that are exclusively full of irritating ads. We learnt that many years ago and the message is going to undoubtedly re-emerge.

“Something that is often overlooked in direct mail is the play value – the physical, tactile nature of a mail piece.”

The future of advertising will be more creative; more engaging. We know this works. This is not some kind of vanity call, it’s about commercial good sense. You engage consumers, you entertain consumers, you sell to consumers and you keep them locked in to your brand.

If we can do this, if we can engage and enthuse our potential customers, all kinds of communication – from digital to mail – will have an incredibly bright future in the marketing world.

Effectiveness Week was an event 31 October – 04 November 2016, which brought together senior marketers and decision-makers from both agencies and clients. The week tackled some of the big questions around making marketing more accountable and enabling the discipline to deliver value to the business through foresight and evidence-based decision-making. You can browse the learnings and key content from the week here.

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“Just what the industry needs, great collaboration between clients and agencies on the topics that drive business growth.”

Bridget Angear, Joint Chief Strategy Officer at AMV BBDO

“It’s great to see the IPA in the UK bring the whole industry and particularly the trade bodies together to focus on effectiveness. This new Marketing Effectiveness initiative will enable people across the industry to work together to build on best practice.”

David Wheldon, Chief Marketing Officer, RBS

“Effectiveness is a team sport, so it was great to see the industry in the widest sense, come together. In an increasingly diverse and fragmented world, only by using all parts of the brain will we solve effectiveness challenges and design our campaigns to deliver short and long term value. That’s why what happens next is important – if the IPA can help facilitate progress on this with a long-term initiative around Marketing Effectiveness, we’ll definitely crack it.”

Bart Michels, Global CEO Kantar Added Value and Country Leader Kantar UK

“The time spent at #EffWeek was extraordinarily effective. It was great to hear the diverse views from all areas of the industry. All tied together with the common themes of accountability and effectiveness.”

Andrew Canter, Global CEO, BCMA

“It has been a privilege to be part of the inaugural Effectiveness Week. The agenda is one which we at O2 UK feel passionately about. To see and hear perspectives across the industry demonstrates how the breadth of marketing effectiveness is increasingly being valued within businesses. Data, insight, social, customer experience, test and learn, ROI, these are all fundamentals and were covered expansively at the event”.

Sandra Fazackerley, Marketing & Consumer, Telefónica UK Limited

“The full week of effectiveness events brought into clear focus the need for marketers to use data and insight to achieve the key business objectives of growth and profits. Marketers today are in a better position to quantify their knowledge of customers and measure the ability of investments in marketing to increase brand and shareholder value.”

Chris Combemale, Group CEO, DMA