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Every Channel Has Its Thorn
Marketers seek to tear down channel silos to improve customer data and build better campaigns
For the rest of the January 2011 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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Cross-channel or no channel at all! That was the message coming out of DMA2010 in San Francisco as Direct Marketing Association (DMA) executives, chief marketing officers, and rock band Poison frontman Bret Michaels gathered to discuss the best ways for brands to use customer data and direct marketing to improve campaigns and maximize return on investment.

The message was hammered home before any flights were booked. “Integration is key,” read the event’s home page. “DMA2010 is the global event covering all marketing channels.”

The most successful and farthest-reaching campaign highlighted during the five-day event was Pepsi’s Refresh Project, which encourages people, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to create projects that will promote positive change within communities.

Refresh, a campaign PepsiCo began in lieu of buying a Super Bowl ad, exemplifies DMA’s cross-channel method by connecting video content, social media, paid search, display ads, email marketing, and a mobile site. Participation levels since the campaign’s launch a year ago have been tremendous: 7,500 ideas have been submitted, more than 46 million people have voted for their favorite projects, 256 projects have received Pepsi Refresh Project grants, and accepted projects have  reached more than 200,000 people.

All good marketing “starts with listening,” explains Bonin Bough, PepsiCo’s global director of digital and social media. While that may sound hokey, there’s no denying PepsiCo greatly benefited from handing the microphone to its customers. Bough announced during DMA2010 the company’s intent to expand Pepsi Refresh to Latin America, Europe, and Asia this year.

Direct marketing, as defined during DMA CEO Lawrence Kimmel’s opening keynote, is “the channel-agnostic approach to driving maximum customer satisfaction and optimal marketplace results.” Kimmel’s address served as a rallying cry for direct marketers who believe their profession has been misunderstood by the public.

Kimmel cited a Wikipedia entry for “direct marketing” that a contributor suggested be merged with an entry for “leaflet distribution.” Though the suggestion disappeared shortly afterward, Kimmel noted that Wikipedia still claims direct marketing reaches audiences without TV, newspaper, or radio. “The world thinks direct marketing is channel-specific. It has never been,” Kimmel said. “Lots of people are focused on a singular channel, but no company is communicating through just one channel.”

But if marketers are to heed Bough’s argument that successful marketers need to listen to customers who communicate across all channels, then the only logical conclusion is that marketers need to be dedicated to exploiting those channels.

One of the most informative and under-attended events at DMA2010 featured Boston Celtics Senior Director of Sales and Marketing Operations Matt Griffin, who outlined the successful cross-channel campaign the team developed after winning the 2008 National Basketball Association championship. This effort involved gathering customer data at every possible outlet to ensure each customer interaction was targeted and relevant. An opt-in database where customers could leave precious nuggets of information, like favorite players, favorite Celtics moments, and birthdays, was also featured and gave the Celtics the opportunity to deliver personalized marketing materials. “We made the opt-in a priority across all channels—on TV, on [all associated] Web sites, at games,” Griffin said.

User enthusiasm ran high. The Celtics saw a 20 percent increase in the size of their overall fan database. The number of fans went from 350,000 to 1.6 million in one year. Their number one source for new email opt-ins is now Facebook, which the Celtics had never before used. The click-through rate on these targeted materials was 23 percent.

The most-hyped event on the DMA2010 agenda was Michaels’ discussion with Steve Stout, cofounder and CEO of Translation, a company that matches pop stars with brands. Although Michaels deferred to Stout’s marketing expertise often during the conversation, Michaels is as cross-channel as one person can get. He is a rock star, a reality TV star, an actor, director, screenwriter, and producer, and he even worked with Snapple to develop Trop-a-Rocka Tea and its cross-channel marketing campaign.

But it was Stout who provided a sobering moment of clarity amid all the cross-channel hoopla. Speaking about social media and how it has become the marketing flavor of the month, Stout posed a serious question: “You want [to use] social? Why? Are you willing to be honest about your product…? If not, you don’t really want that relationship.”


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