Direct Mail: A Cutting-Edge Marketing Tool?

Wendy Lurrie has been at the forefront of the direct marketing industry for some time. As a veteran of Grey Direct and Draftfcb, Lurrie has worked on direct campaigns for clients in financial services, insurance, auto, consumer packaged goods, technology, pharma and more. Lurrie, who became president of G2’s direct and digital group last November, recently discussed how old tools like direct mail and telemarketing may be more effective than digital and why Enron changed the industry forever with Brandweek editor Todd Wasserman. Below are some excerpts:

Brandweek: The conventional wisdom is when the economy is down, it’s great for direct marketing.

Wendy Lurrie: Yeah, it is. I’ve been in the business so long I’ve been able to take a really longitudinal view of the way the economy affects the way people spend and one of the things I’ve noticed is traditionally how the cycle always worked was when the economy dipped, marketers shifted away from the less measurable to the more measurable. And usually when the economy recovered, the shift went back. But that changed I would say around the time of Enron because after Enron and Sarbanes-Oxley there was some impetus for more accountability and measurement for all business processes and … the pendulum sort of stuck to more measurable sort of accounting on the marketing side and it never swung back, which has been good for the direct and digital and CRM type of agencies and when you add to that the kind of downturn then yes there’s always more of a move toward activities that measurably drive transactions.

BW: How are traditional types of direct marketing like direct mail or even telemarking, which I heard is making something of a comeback?

WL: Direct mail volume has been way down largely because of the credit card marketers whowere such an enormous source of it and they cut back dramatically and then a lot of the publishers also cut back. I actually think there is an opportunity to break through with direct mail again. Clutter is much more in the online world and suddenly I have clients—I was on the phone with one yesterday, a pharmaceutical marketer that’s using is primarily for online—asked if they could do some direct mail again. I’m also hearing that from CPGs. The corrollary is if you want to send a message in the workplace, sending an e-mail probably isn’t the way anymore because there’s so much clutter. I’ve actually had some clients doing employee-based marketing and I said you know what, do a desk drop, use these old techniques that stand out more.
BW: One thing about direct mail though is that people are concerned about eco-awareness and producing more paper…
WL: We are hearing that more and more and I think that we need to be very responsible in the kind of direct mail we do and use recycled paper, but some of the things like the monster-sized packages we used to do, they are frowned upon by a lot of clients now.
BW: What about telemarketing?
WL: There is a role for telemarketing, not so much for outbound, but once someone is in a relationship I think it’s a very interesting way of breaking through this morass of anonymity and technology that’s created such a fog and the reason you see the popularity of a site like is because people are so frustrated with the layers and muck and mire because with all the great things technology does, there’s a lot of noise. I think there is an emerging  for the personal touch again and telemarketing can play a role if it’s used on a permission basis.