Fragmentation of Mass Messaging: The Past 10 Years of Direct Marketing Part 2
[Editor's Note: This is the second article in an eight-part, weekly series.]
On Sept. 11, 2001, I watched the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center collapse the way most everyone did in the United States: I saw it on TV. Then I rushed to my job as a daily newspaper reporter in Cleveland, where I helped put out an afternoon edition of what was normally just a morning paper. By the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks, I was living in New York and running a news and opinion site where I could get the news out myself, without having to "stop the presses!"
I didn't realize it then, but that one horrific day perfectly illustrated the fragmentation of mass messaging to come.
In 2001, the Internet wasn't the first way to reach most members of the public. Even though online versions of the news sites existed, fewer people were likely to click on The New York Times, USA Today and CNN than to see them in print or on television. Plus, they couldn't check @NotifyNYC, @NYPDnews or @FDNY, because Twitter didn't launch until 2006. Telecommunications then were, and still are, invaluable, but have possibly undergone the largest evolution I'll mention here.
Although publishers are direct marketers who understand the lessons here, because they've had to adapt or shut down, they're not the only ones who know how much fragmentation can impact a business model. Direct marketers, as a whole, now work to be where their customers are and integrate the customer experience in all channels into a relevant dialog. But to me, it looks like what they've really done is learn a lot from history.
A decade ago, a news consumer likely watched television, read the newspaper for a more detailed account of the story, called relatives to ensure they were OK, left voice mail messages and wrote emails to the people they couldn't reach, listened to the radio for updates, mailed greeting cards, and wired money. That's a lot of channels, and marketers were already using and benefiting from them. For instance, Americans got the message and donated $2.8 billion to help the victims of 9/11.
In today's ideal scenario, what direct marketers are doing is optimizing each aspect of the channels that are new to them, integrating them to get the message across and making those channels convenient for consumers to use.
For instance, the "DMA 2013 Statistical Fact Book" breaks 2012's $651.9 billion in Internet ad-driven sales down into display, $186.9; other, $76 billion; search, $350.2; and social, $38.8.
Technology changed telecommunications from a channel that was mainly used for voice communications 10 years ago into a multidimensional channel that now includes mobile devices, landlines and desktop computers capable of video calls, texts and a whole lot more. The American Red Cross alone can illustrate how much text donations have grown—but the donations in that channel didn't happen on their own. Calls to action are distributed across channels including social, TV, branded Web and offline channels such as word of mouth.
The kind of interconnection between messages that was possible 10 years ago is still possible. But direct marketers and their vendors and agencies are the first to admit there are some hurdles left to jump for many organizations.
Following the money can help marketers understand why messaging is often still fragmented.
To fully take advantage of integrating new technology, instead of allowing already distracted consumers to remain in a fragmented messaging environment, organizations should take a hard look at compensation practices, agreed panelists on June 11 at Integrated Marketing Week in New York. If performance in silos dictates how much employees are paid, silos are going to remain, they agreed during “Educating the Client: How to Sell Integrated Marketing Campaigns.” For instance, if a CEO is compensated based on the number of calls coming into a call center, a display ad with a phone number likely won’t include a link to a landing page.
If budgets are allocated by product line and analytics are based on silos, that’s another way to undercount a channel’s contribution to the bottom line, according to C. Decker Marquis, senior vice president and head of digital marketing at Providence, R.I.-based Citizens Bank. Although the quote is from her speaking engagement at SES New York 2011, it’s a safe bet that many organizations still employ the practice.
Speaking of attribution, Eva Anderl’s team's research, “Analyzing the Customer Journey: Attribution Modeling for Online Marketing Exposures in a Multichannel Setting,” assumes that, like her, marketers understand how to use Markov models. The research associate and PhD candidate at Universität Passau and University of Massachusetts Boston participated in a panel discussion on May 16, 2013, during her presentation at Wharton’s Innovative Approaches to Measuring Advertising Effectiveness conference. Small- to medium-sized businesses are “using very simple heuristics,” such as last-click data for attribution, Anderl said, later adding, “I think the model is only as good as the data that comes in.”
But a major part of the continuation of fragmented messaging gets into what’s happening here—you may be reading this from an e-newsletter or you may have seen this article in a tweet. Either way, if you can see this sentence, you clicked through to our website to read the rest of the article. However, you won’t see this writing in what had long been the way to communicate with large numbers of readers—the channel that dominated a dozen years of my professional life—print.
The point is, not everything will be in all channels all the time. But marketers need to pick out the important information and make sure consumers get the message.
Isn’t that the way it’s always been?