Marketing in the 21st century

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For marketers, the 21st century has brought with it changes directly related to rapid technology advancements. Reliance on e-mail, text messaging and Internet-read news has brought daily business operations to a very impersonal level; dialogue occurs without seeing or speaking to another person. The high-tech, low-touch interactions have challenged marketers to become ever more personalized and strategic in the ways they communicate with consumers, fueling new trends that will drive direct marketing into the future. Vertis Communications has uncovered four trends that will be shaping the industry in 2008 and beyond.

Trend 1: Going Postal

As rising postage rates remain an ever-present concern, direct mail marketers have become increasingly more cautious about the types of pieces being dropped through the mail. Additionally, with the new letter rate now cheaper than the flat-mail rate of yesterday, traditional 9-inch-by-12-inch-envelope mailings may be switched to test letter-size mail.

Unique, eye-catching formats may also be developed using maximum letter size, presenting marketers with other options beyond traditional 6-inch-by-9-inch and No.10 envelops. Such items will still have impact, while saving money through decreased manufacturing and postage costs.

Trend 2: Automating the System

Today’s consumers demand communication personalized to their needs. The implementation of marketing automation greatly improves the ease of producing personalized marketing collateral, increases marketer efficiency and is rapidly gaining credibility within the industry. If the right marketing service provider is selected, a marketer can be granted 24-hour access to customizable materials through a Web portal, boosting brand consistency and giving the marketer an edge on the competition.

Web portals offer new digital work flow solutions that allow marketers to order, personalize, proof and fulfill marketing materials from any location while gaining greater control of costs and minimizing effort associated with coordinating highly versioned and variable campaigns.

Many major international brands have begun implementing marketing automation through tools such as Web portals, including Budget Blinds’ franchisees, which have used Vertis’ OnDemand technology to order yard signs, bus kings, in-store displays and car toppers via the Internet, while keeping the brand consistent across all U.S. locations.

Trend 3: Embracing Multi-Touch-Point Marketing

Though marketers have shown hesitation in the past to fully embrace variable data production tools and interactive media, the Winterberry Group reported earlier this year that 2006 marked the year variable data technology finally grew up.

While traditional direct mail will continue leading the industry, the ability to execute dynamic marketing campaigns across multiple media platforms has given marketers the tools needed to reach consumers at virtually every touch point.

A multi-touch-point marketing program may include such things as direct mail, mobile marketing, peel and reveal coupons, URLs embedded on postcards, online gaming to drive Web traffic, e-mail marketing, contests, ad inserts and more.

Trend 4: Hello, Again

Finally, direct mail will continue to be one of the most effective and measurable media for marketers. However, there’s a slight but definite shift away from traditional programs to retention and activation programs.

Because cost-per-acquisition has skyrocketed for marketers—particularly for brands in the financial services, automotive, hospitality and entertainment industries—more investments are being made based on customer retention and activation, rather than acquisition. A leading financial company recently revealed that cost per acquisition is around $100 a person for direct mail campaigns. Similarly, a rival financial services company has switched focus to retaining and activating the 24 million consumers already familiar with its brand rather than chasing after new clients. While the change is slight, the shift will continue to ride into future.

Dave Colatriano is senior VP-general manager, direct marketing at Vertis Communications. He may be reached at [email protected].

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