Database-Driven Creative with a Power Punch (799 words)
This is a great time to be in direct marketing. Database information is becoming more plentiful and accurate; and clients are finally seeing the value in really knowing their customers. Together, this gives the creative department more tools than ever to hand-craft creative that is truly response-driven and reaches the customer more intimately than before.
Today, creative teams are being pressed to produce on-target work and prove it with trackable accuracy. In the "bad old days" everyone was in their own corner operating independently and without knowledge of what other groups were doing. The creative team would be given some basic demographics and we'd have to guess what would appeal to the customer. There was no real contact between the creative and database marketing departments. Account management was the go-between, keeping the project on course. At the project's completion, the mailing took place, but frequently the creative work did not align with the database.
Today, the creative and database departments share information to achieve a new workflow. At the beginning of a project, the database department shares customer information including demographics, psychographics, trends and customer idiosyncrasies with the creative team.
This communication ensures that the creatives understand the database segments. As the project continues, the two departments share progress reports on new findings and creative development. The result is a cohesive, marketing-driven, targeted mailing that's prepared to touch the customer's heart and wallet.
The value of this new workflow is that the creative team, with guided-missile accuracy, knows who is the target audience. Unlike the old days with one message for everyone, we can now create passionate and compelling messaging with relevanance to multiple groups.
PAYOFFS OF DATABASE-DRIVEN CREATIVE
The payoffs of the new workflow are handsome. Driven by accurate database information, the creative product speaks to customers in a voice they hear and trust, and truly enrolls them in the product or service. This generates:
• Better up-front response.
• Better relationships.
• Better (increased) lifetime value.
The more the two departments communicate, the better the results.
WHAT INFORMATION DO CREATIVES NEED?
• Demographics. This is always interesting to know, although now it's over-rated because it's too basic and too open-ended.
• Psychographics. This is defined as special idiosyncrasies: Loves and hates; Predispositions; Perceptions; Personal information; Life-events.
• Transaction data. Tie in with the demographics and psychographics connecting it all together for us. We know how to speak to customers and then evaluate how to keep them coming back.
Knowledge of transaction data gives creatives excellent ammunition for reaching the targeted audience.
Understanding the psychographics of the average teacher gave us the key to creative that revived the Jostens Learning catalog. The catalog had design style, but lacked authority, and sales were in a slump. Teachers, it turns out, purchase many of their own teaching tools out of their sometimes meager salaries. Jostens Learning software can be valuable to the students as learning tools, but teachers also benefit from the software's special ways of tracking progress. Explaining this technology in sidebars supported the teacher's purchase and reinforced how they and their students could benefit.
How should this database information be given to creatives? A creative brief is the best way to share data with the creative team. This is a structured format outlining key information including the project description, marketing objective, audience description and their perceptions of the product and the competition, the action the client wants the audience to take, and budget considerations.
Creative briefs organize the information in a logical way that takes away the need for creatives to be administrative detectives. While this helps us get off to a fast and targeted approach, marketing management must still supply the intuitive backgrounding and coaching.
WHAT PART OF CREATIVE DOES DATA IMPACT?
Every aspect of the creative process is affected by database information: copywriting; design; pagination (catalog); and merchandising.
The voice of the copy, the design, even the type fonts are based on database knowledge. In a catalog, the pagination and the merchandising is influenced by database facts.
If you want to know what database-driven creative looks like, take a look at the example from Isuzu shown on page 58. It features special tricks and guides to involve the customer. In addition, database creative speaks with an authority that a customer understands and respects; reaches to the depth of the customer's soul and feeds the fantasy; accurately imitates the prospect's walk, talk and attitude; sells with compassion for the prospect's fears and doubts and anticipates each and every purchase question.
Most importantly, database-inspired creative leaves no questions unanswered.
CAROL WORTHINGTON LEVY is creative director and Robert McKim is CEO at MS Database Marketing, based in California. For more information, visit the MS web site at www.msdbm.com, or call (310) 208-2024; fax: (310) 208-5681.