In my view: The cloud over direct mail might have a silver lining

I recently read that financial services companies are sending less direct mail. The research by the Direct Mail Information Service suggests its use fell by 8.1% last year. Those ditching direct mail are instead favouring a more targeted approach.

This hardly surprises me since I have long felt that in the world of banking and insurance - where differentiation is often a matter of loan terms and percentage points - it is personal contact, customer knowledge, service and brand personality that set you apart. And frankly, impersonal mass mailing doesn't cut the mustard.

Another organisation moving away from direct mail is Nokia. In the past it has deployed mailings and digital marketing to promote its mobile phones.

However, it is now dipping its toe into experiential marketing. Using characters from its ads, Nokia will visit bars, clubs, hotels and even hairdressers armed with handsets, branded handset-shaped matchboxes and so on. It recognises that in a highly competitive marketplace, the best way to create an impact with a fashion-conscious and often fickle audience is to reach them in places they don't expect a mobile to be marketed.

While direct mail may still be popular with the government, utilities companies and charities, our research suggests that for many marketers it isn't delivering the ROI of its 1990's heyday.

For the events industry, the implications could be huge. Direct marketers still have budgets to spend and audiences to reach - and if well executed, event marketing offers real brand standout with a large, targeted audience.

Indeed it offers all of the promise that conventional direct marketing offered so many years ago, before the offerings became the same and the audience became saturated.

What's more, event marketing draws on many of the skills, techniques and technologies of conventional direct marketing. So it's a natural place for direct marketers to migrate their talents ... and budgets.

So next time you are promoting your event idea to potential exhibitors, include direct marketers in your mailshot. After all, professional curiosity alone means they're the one audience likely to read it.

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