Nuts & Bolts - Five-Minute Interview: DM by Any Other Name ...
TM: Do you mean like the marketers who are saying, 'It's digital. Not direct' ?
PF: Yes, but beyond that. I agree completely with that. People who not only disassociate themselves from direct, but ... a different species of people who just aren't even aware of direct. Who just think about it as nothing more than late-night infomercials, but have no idea about the wonderful science that was developed around it. So it's one thing for a firm to disassociate themselves saying, 'We're different.' It's another thing to be just completely ignorant about some of the principles that the rest of us understand really well.
TM: Testing? What's testing?
PF: That's a good example—where you'll have a lot of firms out there who aspire to be the next Google. And they are doing testing of some sort. But they're not doing it nearly as smart or efficiently, as thoughtfully as it was done years ago. And occasionally, they are doing it well. They'll bring in some kind of rocket science mathematician who knows a bit about experimental design, but still doesn't know about some of the industry practices that were commonplace in the 70s. And even if you alert them to it, say, 'You know, people were doing this a long time ago. You should learn from them.' They'll say, 'Oh, well. That was different. They were selling Star Wars chess sets back then. Today we're selling the Avatar chess set. You can't compare the two.' And it's so ridiculous how uninterested they are in learning from the past.
TM: In light of these trends, how should direct marketers be modifying their interactive media strategies?
PF: OK, so I just gave you one sad story. Now let's flip it around. There's too many people in the direct space who are clinging to the past, who are being a little too orthodox about the methods that they use, the data that they collect, the metrics that they rely upon. And are not willing to embrace or are sometimes a little afraid to embrace the greater flood of data that's coming down the pipe now. As to my first comment, it's fair to say that everybody is a direct marketer these days, you should learn from it. But at the same time, everybody's a multiplatform marketer these days, so it's not enough to rely on direct alone. It used to be that you were either a direct marketer or you were a brand-building marketer, where you don't necessarily have a one-to-one relationship with each customer, but you're going to build this big brand and hope that that's an umbrella to bring a lot of anonymous people to your business. And one of the things that we've learned in the last 10 years is that you have to be both. That direct absolutely can be used to build a brand and vice versa. But there's a lot of folks, again, old-school direct marketers who feel threatened by opening up their skill set and opening up their vocabulary. So the very fact that we still cling to the word 'direct,' it's interesting that there's such a different feeling. I'm just thinking of my students. When I talk to them about direct marketing, they go 'Eww.' But if I talk to them about interactive marketing, they go, 'Ohh.' It's the same thing. And so we need to break down the walls. We need to get people speaking the same vocabulary, regardless of where they're coming from. And so these cultural differences from the new kids on the block who don't understand direct and the old-school people who are afraid of what's becoming known as interactive, we've got to get everyone at the table and saying, 'Let's learn from the past, but adapt it to the future.'