What’s your direct mail done for you lately?

The following column, which appears each issue, looks at new and emerging trends in direct response marketing. Alternating columnists are David Foley, a specialist in database marketing programs, and Fransi Weinstein, an award-winning creative director. Other than the normal collection...

The following column, which appears each issue, looks at new and emerging trends in direct response marketing. Alternating columnists are David Foley, a specialist in database marketing programs, and Fransi Weinstein, an award-winning creative director.

Other than the normal collection of bills, here is my mail today: two different direct marketing efforts, two different questions.

The first, from The GM Card, asks intriguingly, What’s your (credit) card done for you lately? Well, each and every one has sent me a statement.

I believe that the credit card business is tougher than it has been for years, mostly because consumers are more informed about the cost of credit and more aware of their options.

As some evidence, I offer three related facts:

1) In recent years in North America, available credit has far exceeded the demand and, as a result, overall response rates to credit card offers have been in free fall;

2) People know that they have too many cards and are actively consolidating their debt; and

3) For the preceding reasons, cardholders expect something tangible for their business – a rewards program, a very competitive interest rate, a relevant charity overlay or, better still, a combination of all of the above.

Some card issuers have been forced to promote the idea that double-digit interest rates are good, which probably will not fly with sophisticated credit buyers. At least one credit card statement included a note like this: ‘To help ease the financial strain of the past holiday season, we are waiving the minimum payment this month. You can, of course, make a payment if you wish. Interest charges will be calculated as usual on any unpaid balance.’ If I recall correctly, a similar notice appeared in the summer, and, should this trend continue, one day soon, the notice will read, ‘To help ease the financial strain often associated with (insert month here), we are…’

With its mailing, The GM Card takes a different approach. Its clean, simple package comprises just three elements – a 3 by 7-inch plain white envelope, single page letter and enclosure, all wrapped around a ‘thank you’ theme. Clearly, the mailing attempts to create preference, by leveraging its raison d’etre (earn a five per cent rebate on your new GM vehicle purchase). The mailing’s enclosure is a true lagniappe, albeit just slightly overstated: two ‘commemorative passes to the 2000 Canadian International Autoshow’, which is being held in Toronto later this month.

Every element of the mailing is personalized, including the passes and entry stubs for a prize that is being offered daily at the show. It makes me wonder…if I use one or both of the passes to get in to the show and then enter the contest at the GM exhibit – both of which are tracked separately – will I wake up the next day to find my local dealer parked in my driveway?

Personally, I hope that this promotion helps GM sell some cars and keeps GM cardholders swiping. The idea of building relationships with customers is refreshing and, as presented in my previous column, necessary in many business sectors. As those who manage credit card brands know, the greatest competition they face comes from all the other cards in our wallet or purse.

The second question is from Mike, a.k.a. Clearnet. Its direct mail piece asks, ‘You know that sick feeling when you really need to reach somebody and can’t?’ I do! This is a good question that deserves a clear answer. But, what is it?

The brochure proclaims that ‘Mike gets you through – fast.’ But, the supporting body copy offers nothing specific in answer to the above question. It reads, ‘Mike(tm) is more than just a digital PCS phone. With Mike’s unique Direct Connect(tm) feature, things happen fast. You press a button, you get through, immediately. No dialing. No ringing. No phone tag. No voice mail jail. Nothing lets you do business faster.’

The next paragraph headed ‘Mike is a pager’ reads, ‘Mike comes with a built-in, fully-loaded alpha-numeric pager with call return at the touch of a button. It lets you know automatically when you have a message.’ The mailer contains much more copy – but none of it cures you of that sick feeling when you really need to reach someone and can’t.

I thought – hoped, even – that Mike had developed technology that would eliminate busy signals and voice mail. Not today, apparently. Maybe tomorrow!

David Foley is a marketing consultant and an instructor in database marketing at York University in Toronto. He may be reached at (416) 253-1224; by fax at (416) 253-4637 or via e-mail at dfoley@idirect.com

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.