Information not gimmicks is key to future marketing

This on-going series examines interactive marketing and looks at ways in which advertisers are using the technologies to solve marketing problems. This article focusses on the direct industry.Charles deGruchy is managing partner of Salter deGruchy, a Toronto- and New York-based direct...

This on-going series examines interactive marketing and looks at ways in which advertisers are using the technologies to solve marketing problems. This article focusses on the direct industry.

Charles deGruchy is managing partner of Salter deGruchy, a Toronto- and New York-based direct marketing communications consultancy.

Not so long ago, information high technology was for the techies, and marketing was for the marketers, and never the twain did meet.

But, finally, meetings are starting to happen, and one of the more significant ones occurred in mid-March.

That is when the Direct Marketing Association held its 29th annual spring conference and exhibition in Miami – and called it ‘Mastering Technology for Direct Marketing Success.’

One of the key points made by the conference’s speakers was the fact that, for too long, technology and marketing have been – to borrow a fine, old Canadian metaphor – two solitudes, living together, but apart, separate and distinct, and decidedly unco-operative.

This is not technology’s fault.

It is driven by engineering and science, and it will keep spinning off new products, and wait for the rest of us to find a use for them.

Sometimes, it is solutions in search of a problem. But, just as often, it can be solutions that could be a marketer’s best friend A survey of direct marketing business leaders by Jonah Gitlitz, the president and chief executive officer of the dma, revealed that many of them believe ‘the continued expansion and sophistication of interactive media will have the greatest long-term impact on direct marketing.’

Gitlitz says some of the respondents believe that ‘interactive media has the potential for radically changing people’s buying habits.

‘It promises more personalized interaction with the consumer and customization of service to individual wants and needs,’ he says.

‘This has led direct marketers to find ways to get ready for the day when interactive media will be a reality.’

Given this ‘inevitability,’ author and marketing guru Stan Rapp refocussed everybody’s attention on a different ‘revolution’ – not the distractions of the daily potholes in the information superhighway, but ‘the revolution in thinkware – a fundamental shift in how we think about the relationship between the buyer and the seller.’

Rapp talked about the end of ‘mass-industrial society’ – the end of mass production, mass marketing, mass consumption, and even mass communications.

He said that in its place is the Information Age, which is a new age of ‘de-massified production, individualized marketing, interactive media, and flattened management.’

He said the old business mindset will either change radically, or be that much more roadkill on the Infobahn.

As Rapp researched what he called the ‘MaxiMarketing Winners’ for a new book, he found that one of the common keys to success is ‘the new commandment of Information Age marketing – Tell, Don’t Sell.’

He says that after being deluged by advertising for the last century, consumers have ‘stopped believing…. or, even worse, an increasing number of them stopped paying attention to the clatter of competing claims in the newly fragmented media.’

The antidote to this dilemma was ‘Tell, Tell, Tell before you Sell, Sell, Sell. To win trust, not with advertising claims, but by telling customers everything they need to know to make the right decisions for themselves.’

If Rapp is right, information – not gimmicks – is going to be the key to marketing in the 21st century.

Sure, there is the technology revolution, which will give consumers unprecedented amounts of data – information they can process into answers about what they want, can afford, is available, and suits their particular needs.

But to change the mindset of marketers to face the new one-to-one business realities of the Information Age – that will be an even bigger revolution.