Magazine article Marketing

To Bin or Not to Bin? That Is the Question

Magazine article Marketing

To Bin or Not to Bin? That Is the Question

Article excerpt

Once upon a time, anyone walking into their local shop to buy groceries would almost certainly have been known personally by the proprietor. Credit checks would have been by personal reference and service, or its lack, was a reflection of the intimate relationship between a shopkeeper and his clientele.

Supermarkets and price competition changed all that. But the chain stores and hypermarkets that have given consumers unparalleled choice and value for money have also left many feeling frustrated and alienated. The need for economies of scale has meant that it is now impossible for retail stores and other suppliers to maintain a personal relationship with their customers. Or is it?

Not according to Craig McCulloch, managing director of marketing services specialists MCA Group. He says: "Knowing and understanding your customers is vital - that knowledge provides companies with the security to target more accurately and therefore influence their customers' purchasing patterns. Loyalty generation is crucial to achieving product differentiation. And that difference is often how they are communicated emotionally. So once you can open a dialogue with your customer, it will always give them a reason to come back to you."

The key factor in all this, of course, is how you amass and use your customer information. If money were no object, it would be possible to amass a database detailing the consumer preferences of everybody in the UK and then talk to them on a one-to-one basis. Realistically, however, companies can only go so far towards this - after that it's how you manage your information and use it creatively to sell.

"Integration is vital," says McCulloch. "Not so many years ago, direct campaigns were for the trade. Even if, as often happened, these campaigns were successful, communication to the consumer remained in the domain of above-the-line advertising. The idea of integrating DM into an above-the-line campaign appalled advertising agencies and their clients. When 'brand stretching' arrived, direct marketing came of age."

Now, many of the most successful DM campaigns are also winning creative awards, too. The trend towards 'cult' marketing of products such as Tango has helped create niche markets which are eager to be sold to in a creative way. "Direct marketing is at last at the cutting edge of creativity," notes McCulloch, "and cult executions can be very effective. More than that, they show a deep understanding of how the process works, of how people want to be more than just a mass market."

But it's no good putting money into relationship tools like catalogues, newsletters and loyalty cards at random, then discarding them because they don't achieve an immediate response. …

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