Rapping with Rapp

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Stan Rapp, chairman emeritus of McCann Relationship Marketing, has achieved legendary status in the advertising world. He is one of the most well-known people in the direct marketing business, and his name lives on at Rapp Collins Worldwide, an agency he spent 23 years building.

Rapp joined The Interpublic Group of Cos.’ McCann Relationship Marketing in 1997 as CEO to oversee direct and relationship marketing for a host of blue-chip clients, including Dell Computer Corp. and Sprint Corp.

He has co-authored six books on marketing and is putting the finishing touches on a seventh, due out later this year. He recently sat down with BtoB to discuss industry issues, including database integration, customer relationship management and why the Internet should not be used as an advertising medium.

BtoB: Is the Internet a direct marketing or a branding medium?

Rapp: It is an interactive communications medium. At the same time, it can be used for actual direct ordering.

It is best not used as an advertising medium. The surest way to destroy the effectiveness of the Internet is to force it into the model of commercial media like newspapers, magazines and television, because you then undermine the whole reason why it is so special.

It’s a place people go to find information to better their lives, [so it] must be impartial or at least clearly presented in an impartial way. Advertising diminishes its credibility.

The latest monstrosity of intrusive, full-screen advertisements popping up when I’m trying to find out how to kill the Japanese beetles in my rose bushes is going to make me give up on the Internet.

BtoB: You’ve said, "Most companies don’t get one-to-one marketing right" because they’re too focused on the technology. Is that still true?

Rapp: It’s absolutely true. One-to-one simply says I can talk directly to my customer or prospect. Talking isn’t important; what I say is. Are you asking your customers what they want and need at your Internet site in a not-so-obvious way by making certain offers and seeing what they respond to?

Companies say, "I bought Siebel or some other system for millions of dollars, and it’s not doing anything for me," and I have to wonder how it was sold. The ads the big software systems are running always have the term CRM in them. They took over the CRM realm and gave CRM a bad name because all they were doing was delivering some of the technology that is needed—and not all of it by any means—and saying, "This is how you can now have all the touch points covered."

What does the company do to reach those touch points? For our clients, like UPS, Microsoft and Sprint, we work with the client to use the technology to build relationships that result in a better bottom line. It takes an attitude on the part of the client [and] the agency to bring resources to bear that can make it happen. In today’s world, a lot of that has to do with outsourcing. You can’t do it all from inside any company.

BtoB: What are the challenges to data integration?

Rapp: It’s expensive. Therefore, it’s a major management decision. In every company of considerable size, there are rivalries. Everybody is charged to do his or her best. They want to control this valuable asset, the data they have spent effort and sweat and money to build. It’s natural for people to feel threatened if someone is going to start fooling around with what they consider a very vital part of their business.

It’s kind of ironic that business started out so resistant to building the databases in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and now they’re so precious.

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