Direct marketing just doesn’t work

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I’m going to say upfront here that I have no marketing experience. But I do have lots of experience being a customer, as well as being on the receiving end of direct marketing.

Today, I was contacted by Dominos (UK) about an offer they are having at the moment. That in itself is nothing unusual and only a little annoying.

What’s unusual, and incredibly annoying, is that not only did they send something through the post, they also sent my husband a text message. Furthermore, what we received in the post was in an addressed envelope such that it looked like a normal, non-junk letter.

Oh, but it only begins there. I also believe they were in breech of the Data Protection Act 1998 due to the fact they kept my data for longer than the purpose it was given (ordering pizza).

This got me thinking. Why do companies continue to market their products in ways that feels more like harassment?

How many times have you found yourself frustrated by direct marketing? All those unwanted telephone calls, letters, emails and now text messages too.

I’m sure that, like me, you got fed up with direct marketing a long time ago and wish it would stop.

Now think, how many times has direct marketing got you to buy their product? I’ll take a guess here and say very few have.

The intrusive nature of direct marketing probably leaves you feeling like doing anything but buying their product. But let’s take this further.

Does direct marketing put you off dealing with that company again? I know that’s the effect it has on me, and while I know I have a shorter fuse than some, I am not unreasonable.

If this is how direct marketing leaves us feeling, why do companies continue to do it?

I have a theory. Marketers have been telling companies for so long that direct marketing works, that the companies now believe them.

Whenever I think of marketing companies, I imagine a group of evil monsters laying in wait for other, unsuspecting companies that they can trick into buying their marketing strategies, and that they would lie and manipulate data until the cows come home. And let’s face it – data can easily be made to look like something it’s not.

If you happen to work in the marketing industry and you are an honest person, please don’t take offence. You are a rare gem and I wish you every success. We need more people like you in the world (except if you use direct marketing strategies ;)).

It is my opinion, as a consumer, that companies would be far better off if they used marketing that does not target individuals, i.e. does not make someone feel singled out.

I’m going to get you to think again (sorry about that, I’m sure you did far too much of it at work today). Can you remember more from an advert on TV than you can from a direct marketing attempt (a telephone call, for example)?

I for one can remember far more from a leaflet sent through the door last week than I do from the text message and mail Dominos sent me today.

And why is that? It’s because leaflets are not aimed at me. The text message was, and it violated my privacy.

So, to any marketers out there, please, stop with the direct marketing already. It just doesn’t work.

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    • As someone who does a lot of direct mail pieces (in the US) I should say that we continue to do this because it provides great results (meaning that you’re wrong, although I enjoyed your blog). Personally I’d like to do a lot more “permission advertising” as Seth Godin often talks about but really, mailers work with or without permission. I do agree however that some customers, such as yourself, do get offended by the intrusion to the point of no longer wanted to shop with a certain company. I’ve actually received complaints about “intruding” on the Sunday funnies in the newspaper with advertising so you do learn to tune the complaints out because otherwise, you couldn’t advertise anywhere without offending someone.

      As a consumer I have to say, spam is no problem for me because I can easily put it in a recycling bin and it’s important to remember, it’s only spam if it doesn’t interest you but when it does it’s actually informative (I love receiving coupons for oil changes). I do however despise email spam since it takes more effort to dispose of (especially if you have a slow connection or just a slow computer).

      Personally I find the perspective of people such as yourself to be odd. In my view, so long as the unwanted ad doesn’t force or trick me into interacting with it then I really don’t see the problem.

      • Thank you very much for your comment! It’s great to hear the other side of the argument (I don’t know any marketers). I wrote this post knowing it was likely I’d eventually be told I was wrong, but I’m glad you’ve gone into the argument rather than just saying I’m wrong 😀

        I think the reason I hate direct advertising so much is because at some point I’ve interacted with a business and they then (in my opinion) abuse that interaction by later using my details to contact me with adverts. I’m very much a “I didn’t give you permission to use [insert something like contact details, ideas or artwork here] in that way” person. That’s why spam through the letter box doesn’t bother me as much – they’re sending it to the house not necessarily to me unless it’s in an addressed envelope. My email is publicly posted on-line, so again that’s not necessarily at me because they just scrape whatever emails they can. But contact by phone just seems so much more personal and invasive because I don’t give that info out publicly.

        You do have a point about ads not forcing or tricking people into anything. I’ll try to keep it in mind.

        • Just to be sure we’re clear, I’m just saying that I don’t mind ads WHEN they don’t force or trick you into interacting with them. It seems like credit card companies are the worst when it comes to mailing an envelope that’s disguised as an “urgent” letter so that I’ll open in it just incase it is actually urgent (when will I ever learn?). The Dominos franchise near me actually tried phone advertising (as I think you stated as well) and the manager, whom I know, tells me their phones were tied up with complaint calls at their store as a result.

          A lot of companies, thanks to the internet, have been using a lot more permission based advertising lately. I’ve actually signed up with a number of stores, such as Borders, for their weekly coupons which are great considering how much I read. Restaurants are great to sign up with as well since they tend to email coupons for free dinner when it’s your birthday, yum.

      • I, too, know that direct mail marketing works; I just find it to be an abuse of trust. Allow me to explain.

        I’ve worked in the marketing industry in the US for the last 5 years now, in a technological role and not as a marketer, so while I’ve never made the call to direction I have seen the repercussions after the fact. I say that to say that I have personally witnessed the positive ROI in doing a direct, physical, mail campaign. Sometimes it’s a much higher return than a complete online campaign (depending on the market obviously).

        That being said, from a consumer standpoint, I agree with Gaby. It is an invasion of my information and (usually) exploitation of the social contract when Gaby gave the information in the first place (all she wanted was a pizza man which I’m assuming she paid cold cash for). I have personally never ordered a pizza and signed a contract saying, “Sure, please send me all sorts of crap in the mail. That’d be great.”.

        Yes, there are Terms of Service agreememnts (TOS). The problem with those is that people rarely read them and even those that do can, and often do, misconstrue their meaning. IMHO it’s quite obvious that Terms of Service agreements are not a reliable way of informing the average consumer of what they’re in for. There. I said it 🙂

        Anyway, while I just throw junk mail away it’s still a pain in the ass because I get soooo much of it, every single day, I’m always worried legitimate mail is stuck inside. So, in effect, while I’m looking for my mail I’m getting marketed to. I never agreed to that.

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