Rumors of Direct Mail’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Here’s a statistic that will leave the Twitteratti and Blogosphere scratching their digital heads: direct mail volume increased 16% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2010 to 6.1 billion pieces in total, according to data from direct marketing intelligence firm Mintel Comperemedia.

At a time when most industry observers believe that Email and Social Media are rising up to replace Direct Mail as the best forms of one-to-one response marketing, this new finding (published June 3, 2010) gives letter shops, postal employees, and DM agencies a reason to “keep the faith” in a marketing vehicle that has reliably powered our industry for decades.

The report cites the insurance, credit card, and mortgage lending industries as the category leaders in this uptick of printed mail.

At The Weinstein Organization we’ve never given up on postal Direct Mail. As an Integrated Marketing agency we have augmented our Direct Mail strategies with digital response channels such as PURLs and Twitter that tailor the interactivity to the natural preferences of the individual, to increase the likelihood of response.

Direct Mail has inherent properties that can’t be duplicated by digital media. Direct mail is tactile—you can hold it, interact with it, and research shows that people spend more time with printed mail than with other media. You can’t “click away” from a Direct Mail piece. And Direct Mail lives in the one place that people still go to day in and day out: the mailbox.

The mailbox at a reader’s home address offers marketers unique identifying data that is stationary, definitive, and revealing. Our home address says something about our demographics, economics, psychographics, and is much more reliable than an IP address. And studies show that while people do take a break from their computers and mobile devices from time to time, going to the mailbox every day remains a constant behavior.

Statistics like these prove that no media is ever really “dead”; they may fall out of favor, or ebb and flow with the trends, but they never go away completely. Integration and innovation are the refresh buttons for postal Direct Mail. Content is still the response driver, strategy is the roadmap, and media is the vehicle. And in many cases, Direct Mail is still the best way to go.

Happy Social Media Day!

(originally posted on Wednesday, June 30, 2010)

Today we celebrate one of the biggest advancements in inter-personal communications. And if you are reading this on our Facbook page, or someone shared this blog post with you, then you already know who the honor goes to: social media.

Social media blog Mashable has declared June 30th “Social Media Day”, and is marking this occasion by promoting meet-ups in various locations around the world. Not surprisingly, we found out about today’s global holiday via Twitter.

At The Weinstein Organization we think social media is worth celebrating. At a time when global population is growing faster than any other in human history, social media makes the world smaller while expanding our personal peer influence. The ability to directly connect with others cannot be underrated; it helps raise money during a crisis (the Haitian earthquake), it changes politics (Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign in 2008), and it even finds people work (Betty White on SNL).

Social media can also be credited with changing fundamental human behavior. People are now publishers, and our ability to move ideas around the world is only limited by the strength, viability, and appeal of our ideas. And that is a fundamental shift for marketing too.

Many marketers worry about losing control of their message because of social media. But customers and prospects have always controlled the marketing message with the oldest form of marketing: word-of-mouth. But now our word-of-mouth is more amplified and more precisely targeted within our own individual spheres of influence.

This is good for marketing. When marketers take the time to listen to what people are saying about them, and adjust their messages to work more effectively within the social climate surrounding their product or service, they have a better chance of success. People react positively when they feel like someone is listening to them. And best of all, we can see it happening in real time—if we take the time to pay attention.

Direct response marketing can easily adopt social media strategies, because they are natural extensions of what we already do. It is pull-marketing with a twist: instead of acquiring one customer at a time, we can now pull in that one customer and all of their friends. And all their friends’ friends. It largely depends on how well we craft the key offer and message, which are some of the basic best practices of direct response marketing in the first place.

So on this happy Social Media Day, we gather ‘round our browsers and give thanks to the great connector of us all. Statuses are updated, You are uploaded, Tweets are tweeted, and anything worth digging is on Digg.

Twitter And The Marketing Of Your Government

(originally posted on Thursday, June 24, 2010)

Yesterday at precisely 12:25 PM was a moment in time when you could actually say the world changed forever. Across the Twittersphere came what would ordinarily be somebody’s very first sub-140 character form of communications. But this was no ordinary Tweet:

“Hello everyone! I’m on Twitter, and this is my first Tweet.”

And it came from the verified account of @KremlinRussia_E. Yes, the President of Russia, Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev, is now on Twitter just like you and me.

While President Medvedev is certainly not the first world leader or politician to get a Twitter account (@KremlinRussia_E is the English version, @KremlinRussia is the version using the Cyrillic alphabet), this adds another dimension to the rise of Twitter as a tool for governments to reach their citizens and market their policies.

Sure, President Obama and a vast majority of Congressmen and Congresswomen use Twitter in order to engage the American public, flex their PR muscle, squelch rumors, and “sell” their policies. It’s more of a natural growth in the kind of open society our country is based upon, rather than a revolutionary idea.

FDR’s Fireside Chat radio broadcasts of the 1930s and 1940s weren’t just his way of letting Americans know what was going on, they were a highly stylized and (at the time) brilliant new use of media to market his Presidency. His image: strong, compassionate, and in control. His message: I want you to know what my administration is doing for you. The response: Americans felt calmer and more unified during an economic crisis and a war, and he was elected more times than any other President in US history.

Of course TV changed the face of government by giving it an actual face (Harry Truman’s first televised Presidential speech on October 5, 1947), and we all know about the marketing case study of how President Obama used the internet and social media to help get elected. Now virtually every major US politician makes their thoughts known to their constituents and supporters through Twitter. Governmental agencies, press secretaries, and political consultants do too. It’s faster, cheaper, more trackable, and often more engaging than many other forms of media.

But Russia? Here’s a sampling from President Medvedev’s first 24 hours on Twitter, while visiting America:

“Silicon Valley’s greatest asset is communication. People discuss their work not trifles. Russia would benefit from this kind of environment.”

“Skolkovo should absorb good ideas and talented people like a sponge. But this cannot be achieved by fiat.”

“Russia and the US are working to improve global security, but the goal of this visit is to improve our economic relations."

And from just 24 minutes ago (at the time of this writing), “The decision of major American companies to come to Russia and invest shows that we can agree on more than just missiles.”

By simply Tweeting, the President of Russia has changed his country’s image, given the global community access to the mind behind the man, and is bound to provoke a response from around the world that is positive towards his country.

President Medvedev currently has over 20,000 followers (he only follows @BarackObama, @10DowningStreet, @TheWhitehouse, and @KremlinRussia), and is on almost 900 Twitter lists.

His first Tweets are an important development in not only the political marketing of his own administration, but in the global rise and acceptance of social media marketing as well.

Privacy vs. Social Media

(originally posted on Wednesday, May 19, 2010)

Social Media, Facebook in particular, is one big global cocktail party, minus the cocktails. It’s where we show up to be seen and heard, and a place to cultivate our own individual presence. It is the great equalizer of society in that everyone can broadcast or publish themselves, stand on their own soapbox, and communicate with their friends/followers/fans, or whatever version of “network” your favorite platform chooses to call it.

But it has also become the latest battlefield over the issue of privacy. When Zuckerberg uttered the above quote, he no doubt fanned the flames of the privacy debate. There is a misconception by Facebook’s users that they are entitled to completely protect their privacy when using Facebook. That notion is somewhat at odds with the whole concept of social media.

Facebook’s only true asset is data from the 450,000,000 users who have made this company the most dominant force in communications today. But the value of that data is only worth what these users make of it. There is no requirement by Facebook that you completely fill up your profile with personal information, but people do it anyway. And that’s because sharing personal information is at the heart of why social media is so popular. It’s the “look at me” factor that human beings naturally thrive on.

So why then are Facebook’s users so up in arms over privacy? Our theory is that it comes down to control. Facebook users seem to forget that they are USING someone else’s product for their own benefit (entertainment, networking, commerce, etc.) FOR FREE. Access to your personal information by Facebook, and its ancillary platforms, apps, polls, and games, is the currency used to pay the price of entry. But most people forget that they can indeed set their own “price” by limiting the amount of information they put into their profile.

Will that make the Facebook experience less enjoyable? That’s doubtful, because the sweet-spot on Facebook is the interaction between people in your network. It’s not people seeing your favorite Tolstoy quote, or learning that you’re interested in rock climbing, or that your favorite TV show is “Lost”. Those are the details that people can connect over, and those are the nuggets of data that marketers are looking for, but that’s not what makes Facebook so appealing to people. It’s the simple ability to communicate with anyone at anytime about anything that makes social media a phenomenon.

We the people do NOT own Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg does. And he has the right to make the rules. If we don’t like the rules we can go somewhere else like Twitter, or Foursquare, or we can invent our own platform. We can even stop using social media altogether, but that is unlikely because it is now fully integrated into our way of life.

Or we can protect our own privacy the old fashioned way: by limiting the amount of information we put into our profiles, the kinds of apps we use, and the groups we join. That’s where the user still has total control.

As marketers, The Weinstein Organization has a vested interest in the privacy debate as it pertains to social media. Without personal data, Facebook becomes less important and less useful to the marketing world. If consumers want to protect their privacy, that decision still belongs to them. However, “being private” is really the antithesis of “being social”. So is Zuckerberg correct about privacy no longer being a social norm? Or has he misjudged the true nature of social media’s appeal? Does social media belong to the people, or the platforms?

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…” But Saturdays are a different story.

(originally posted on Friday, April 2, 2010)

For some time now, the United States Postal Service has seen their revenues decline. With the rise of email, and internet downloads of documents, their simple business model of paid postal delivery is dwindling, and the idea of the relentless and determined mailman has been reduced to a quaint notion from another era.

Even social and mobile media has affected their business, by changing the way we correspond. Think about it: nobody has pen pals anymore, they have social networks. Nobody needs to mail family photos to Grandma; now they can just upload digital pics to her Facebook wall, or electronically send them straight to a digital frame display on her coffee table. And when was the last time you mailed a postcard from vacation? There’s an iPhone app for that too.

The USPS cannot continue to raise postage rates anymore to decrease their operating deficit, because that will only exacerbate the problem. Nobody spends more money on old technology if they have other options. You can pay your bills on line, and even receive a coupon directly from a retailer right on your mobile phone, so even the most routine utilities of postal delivery are becoming obsolete.

The only thing the USPS has deemed a viable option is to enact a 16% reduction in service by eliminating Saturdays.

So if the USPS ends their Saturday street delivery service in 2011 as they are attempting to do (pending approval by Congress), how will it affect you? How will it affect your business.