Leonsis: Direct marketers need to strive for honesty, authenticity

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New York—Today more than ever, direct marketers need to be “rough hewn” and honest in all marketing communications, Ted Leonsis, vice chairman emeritus of AOL and chairman of Clearspring Technologies, a cross-platform widget service, said Tuesday in his keynote address to the Direct Marketing Association’s 2008 DM Days New York conference.

Changes in media consumption over time have greatly affected the way people react to marketing messages, said Leonsis, adding, “They can smell a phony a mile away.”

Embracing the customer, he said, comes down to basic things that are anathema to what direct marketers have been taught. Those basic tenets include listening to the customer and being open to feedback; being authentic; being humble; and making sure sharing information is easy.

Leonsis also said there is a significant blurring of b-to-b and b-to-c in an “always-on” environment.

“If you are always connected and can always be reached, there’s a blurring of b-to-b and b-to-c that occurs,” he said. People are more likely to mix personal business in their workplace and vice versa. "That is a very different attitudinal switch marketers needs to pay attention to.”

—Carol Krol

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