Straight Talk: Creating a Higher Level of Engagement
Afterward, I invited him and his wife, Kim Pick, head of copy at Rapp, to be a part of our webinar series and present on a similar topic. Because "Winning Over Today's Tough Prospects ... with Innovative Direct Mail" on Dec. 3 received such rave reviews from listeners (http://tinyurl.com/a257eq), I decided to conduct a follow-up interview with Wayne. Since moving to New Zealand in late 2004, Wayne has won more than 90 local and international awards, including the Grand Prix for the past three years at New Zealand's national direct marketing awards, the RSVPs.
Boldt: You mentioned that the current economic conditions have created a siege mentality among prospects. What does that mean to direct mailers?
Pick: A siege mentality means you feel bombarded, and your defenses go up. When the mail arrives, you are less likely to consider it: You will have already, in some way, drawn up your demarcation line between what you need and what you don't. We need to be more compelling-to resonate more by having messages that are tailored and meaningful to the person getting it. We can't in any way be considered hard sell or spam. We can't force our way in-we need to be invited in.
Boldt: Instead, you advocate something called "DM 2.0."
Pick: We came up with that term as a way to talk about the impact of Web 2.0 values on DM-and we have seen it being used more and more in 2008. It's a natural progression from looking at the core values of Web 2.0-such as openness, transparency and respect for users-and understanding that recipients of DM expect the same thing. What we say as direct marketers can be challenged in milliseconds in a Google search-and what we are not saying can be found out as well. So it's about a move away from hyperbole and hard sell advertising into real relationship building with people.
Boldt: What shows prospects right away that a mail piece is relevant to them?
Pick: It uses the language they use; it resonates with things that are true for them-usually, by understanding a unique insight into their lives. The first response will be curiosity, then engagement. It shouldn't shout relevancy-people should instinctively know it's talking to them.
Boldt: So the "unique insights" into what is truly important to the prospective customer are what drive the creative?
Pick: It's true that all of our best creative has been driven out of sound, or even profound, customer insights. It's not about resorting to stereotype or assumption, but instead looking at the information we know about the people we are talking to and discussing something meaningful with them. It's the basis of any good communication really.
Dish Magazine's "Bistro at your place" was one historic example where understanding the target market was pivotal in getting response. This particular group was not, in fact, driven by price; they were driven by prestige. A readership survey happened to hold a fascinating insight into them: that the majority of readers believed "the meals that they served at home were equal to anything served in a restaurant." That was key for us.
Boldt: Is that campaign also an example of when advanced personalization technology- a high-end self-mailer resembing a menu was personalized for each prospect's very own home ("Bistro on [prospect's street]"; "Chef [prospect's name]")-can be absolutely vital to response?
Pick: Actually, that was probably an example of really simple personalization. What it did was take a compelling insight and execute it in what appeared to be a highly individual way. The lasering technology fit in with the idea-it wasn't the idea.
It's funny how "personalization technology" seems like a contradiction in terms-it seems very calculated. The idea is to get closer to people in a real way that understands them. If it's forced, it will be seen as fake. This personalization only worked because it began with a truth. It struck a nerve because people saw something in the piece that resonated with them. Simply putting their name in lights, for instance, although highly personalized, would not have achieved the same effect.
Boldt: "Be entertaining." Easy to say and sometimes even do, but how do you get that to translate into a good response?
Pick: Once again, insights are key. Rapp's philosophy is Customer Obsession ... being fixated with our customers, and understanding them and what drives them-and that includes what amuses them.
Humor builds rapport, and if people feel you "get" them, they're more likely to feel you're worthy of a relationship with them. With Sky TV Wrestlemania, we had a particular challenge of urging a very diverse group to watch WWE wrestling at a particularly inconvenient time. [Rapp used a faux-red meat package, complete with dried, fake blood, with the tagline, "Who's Gonna Be MINCEMEAT?" to promote a live pay-per-view event to New Zealanders, for whom the 7 p.m. Orlando, Fla. show time was noon on Monday. Results? More than half of the 14,714 mailed paid to watch the event at lunchtime Monday.] By approaching it in an entertaining and relevant way, we were able to get through and build rapport-and that's what drove response.