Is Print Creative Dying?

applied artsIn the most recent issue of Applied Arts (March/April, 2013, Volume 28/number1) there is an article titled “What’s Happening to the Craft of Design”. Penned by Rita Sasges (principal at Sasges Inc., a Calgary-based visual strategy and communications firm []) she talks about how designers are so focused on digital tools, that they are forgetting the tactile beauty of print.

Ms Sasges bemoans the fact that digital print does not provide the feel of traditional printed pieces – the embossing, the typeset or bound of days gone by. Her point then is that designers have become so wrapped up in the technology of the craft that they’ve forgotten how to use the craft of printing. Her most memorable quote is “Why as designers, are we craft junkies but yet we see so little craft in our industry”.

I’m not sure if designers are wholly to blame (marketers? agencies?) but I would add to Rita’s point that the quality of print creative overall has been on the decline for some time. The days where a printed piece – be it direct mail or other print – has strong, unique, memorable physical creative seems to be a distant memory. The stock, folds, stickers, die-cuts … don’t seem to make it into the final product the way they used to. Whether it’s declining creative or production budgets or that creative funds have simply moved from physical to digital, means much of what we see in print today looks the same. Very little seems to stand out anymore. And isn’t that one of our main objectives as marketers – make something stand out?

So a call out to the designers (and marketers and agencies) out there old and young: Find a way to introduce some old school design and creative into our print. Your audience will appreciate remember you for it.

The 3 Steps To Good Direct Marketing

 Art & Science of Direct

It doesn’t take calculus to figure out how to do direct marketing, but when it comes to deciding where to put your emphasis between the 3 levers of direct, knowing how to prioritze your effort can make a big difference in the success of your campaign. Think of it as part of the science in the ‘art and science’ of direct marketing.

The three pillars of successful direct marketing are…




… and they are often presented in this order as a ranking of priority with list being the most important. Here is what I was taught years ago and still use today with clients to explain weighting between pillars:

Campaign Success = List (40%) + Offer (30%) + Creative (30%)

I agree with this weighting for marketing to your customer list. But for prospecting I feel it’s more 60% for list and 20% each for offer and creative. Think about it from this perspective: If you have beautiful creative and a great offer like “Six Months FREE” at a senior’s residence, what good is it if your list is to millennials or to seniors who can’t afford your residence?


Prospecting – Getting New Customers

When trying to acquire new customers, you will typically be working with a list broker to source an external list. Regardless of how many lists they have, you want a list of records (people) that resemble your existing customers. You want to target people who look like your current customer base in as many ways as possible. If you are a women’s clothing retailer you would be interested in a list of people who have made women’s fashion purchases in the past or who buy women’s fashion magazines or who signed up for an online women’s fashion newsletter, etc. Other information such as demographic attributes like age, income, family status and location are also helpful.

Loyalty – Speaking to Existing Customers

Whether your aim is to activate, cross sell or up sell, retain or recapture customers you have a customer record so you don’t need to go outside to get contact information (you can however use external information to add to and strengthen the quality of your database but let’s save that for another day). You have your a house list from purchase data or from customers who gave you their information directly. But list still matters. For the goal you seek to address (i.e. cross sell), you still need to look at who within your database will give you the best return. If you are trying to sell an existing customer a product upgrade, there are factors that will make some customers more likely to respond. You could analyze customers who have already upgraded and see what item(s) they bought before the upgrade purchase (i.e. if you find that 18% of customers who bought product A later bought product D, reach out to people who have product A and no D). The point is that even within your house file, your ‘list’ does not mean any customer in your database.

Step 2. What Is Your Hook?…The Offer

Does an offer have to be a discount? No, but too often marketers think it must. We’ve trained ourselves (and perhaps too many customers for some businesses) to think that unless you have a sale or a dollar off coupon you won’t get traffic through the door. Not so. An offer is defined in Webster’s this way:

To present for acceptance or rejection

It does not say money anywhere, but you do have to have something of value. And we all know that value includes more than a discount or something for free (although this can be the most powerful offer for your audience). The important note here is to know your audience. The goal of your offer is to find the gem(s) that motivate your target to respond…to act – call you, go online, sign up for your email, enter your contest or go into your store and buy.

Step 3.  Make Your Message Stand Out…Creative

Even though creative is behind list that does not mean it’s not important. Creative can be the one element where you can be different from your competitors. They can buy the same prospect list and offer 10% off just like you did. Creative is your chance to stand out in my inbox or mailbox and have me look at your message over your competitors. And certainly on the direct mail side, with marketing budgets being what they are nowadays (spread across more channels), expenditures on creative have declined over the years. Marketers today often invest creative funds in new media over direct. But that’s like running the 100 metre dash and slowing down before the finish line – it puts your effort over the first 90 metres (getting list and offer right) at risk because you didn’t run through the line. So don’t short shift your campaign and go with sub optimal creative.

A final word of caution on creative: Don’t design your creative to win over the hearts and minds of awards judges and not your customer’s wallets. Heed the advice of the master of direct marketing David Ogilvy when he reminds us all that we are paid to ring the cash register, not put trophies up on the wall.

Confessions of an Advertising Man, David Ogilvy, 2011

ABC – Always Be Closing

Daniel Pink

I published a post a few months ago about sales. Even though this is a marketing blog, I realize that selling is part of my everyday life and in my job as a marketer. Pitching an idea I want my boss/a client to buy into through to selling myself in an interview (for a job or to a prospective mate) I am selling.

I was driving a few weeks ago and heard an author on CBC radio (public radio in Canada) being interviewed about sales. The author – Daniel Pink – was there to promote his latest book To Sell Is Human. Pink is also the author of Drive – a book I enjoyed last year about what motivates us. His premise this time is that we are all essentially in sales in what he calls non sales selling. Daniel suggests that we regularly “persuade, influence, cajole and convince” at work and or at home. I am waiting for this book to arrive but wanted to share a few really interesting points from the broadcast.

Buyer Beware…No SELLER Beware

Information asymmetry no longer exists. We know this as marketers thanks to the explosion of social media. Information is not hidden or hard to find. In today’s age buyers have significant access to information and lots of options to purchase, so the seller is the person on notice. It’s no longer buyer beware according to Pink but seller beware.


A B C – Always Be Closing

Sales has changed from the days of WKRP’s Herb Tarlek or Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross (if you want some fun, have a peak at the excerpt below from the movie. No wonder the latest rendition is a roaring success on Broadway right now).

Sales has changed so much that Pink has a new take on the famous ‘ABC’ acronym for ‘Always be Closing’:

A: Atunment (sp?)- You must learn how to take someone else’s perspective (so you can understand what they truly need from you)

B: Buoyancy – There is a tremendous amount of rejection in sales and to survive, you have to find ways to deal with it

C: Clarity – Instead of being a problem solver for clients, be a problem finder. Find a way out from a murky situation or make your client aware of something important they did not see and you will be golden  

I have taken some sales training over the past few years as a marketer with business development in my responsibilities and I really like the point about problem finding. Asking good questions and helping a client see an opportunity to do something better is a sure winner to build more trust and sell more of whatever you have to offer.  

Extroverts Make Better Salespeople … Right?

Daniel points to some about to be published research by Adam Grant (a superstar management professor from Wharton) that shows the correlation between extroversion and sales performance is close to zero(!). Along the introvert-extrovert scale of 1-7 (1 being an introvert and 7 being an extrovert), the best sales performers are in the middle – the 3s, 4’s and 5’s called ambiverts. A die-hard introvert won’t have the confidence to ask the right questions, make a personal connection or steer the conversation towards a sale. On the other end of the spectrum, an extrovert is no better. Have you been in front of a true extrovert? Could you get a word in? Did they even listen to you/understand what your problem is? No and that’s why they aren’t great salespeople either. Ambiverts are the best because they can calibrate their reaction. They know when to listen and when to talk.

The good news for all of us who fall between quiet wallflowers and the person who can walk into a room full of strangers and enjoy meeting everyone is that we are the natural born salespeople.

I Think I Can…I Think I Can…

Is taking a page from Oprah or Tony Robbins a good idea for salespeople? Instead of using affirmative, positive self talk (i.e. saying to yourself I am going to close this Sale, I am going to close this sale), Daniel says it’s better to ask yourself the question ‘Can I do this?’ Why? Because a question is a more active statement and you are more likely to put some thought into your meeting and how to best prepare for it (research the company; write a list of questions down; make sure you are meeting the right person; prepare for expected objections). Or decide it’s a lost cause and focus your efforts on better leads.

When you have a few moments (podcast is 20 minutes long), try the link below. Or you can pick up his book To Sell Is Human online at Amazon or Chapters.

Daniel Pink

CBC Podcast



Dr Adam Grant Pink


Send this to all of your trucker friends or Mercedes-Benz owners.

AdPitch Blog

“The new Actros is Mercedes-Benz’s most impressive truck until now. We wanted truck drivers to experience this in a unique place where only they could see it.”

Campaigns like this, you can just see someone had a great idea moment! I love looking up at lorry drivers as they go past, but you never really think of or see what they see from their high point of view, now we have an ad that targets them specifically! Only for their eyes!

View original post

A safety TV spot from Australia…with 24MM views.

AdPitch Blog

Considering this is an advert, and it was only released on the 14th of November, it has all ready gained over 10million views! It’s not the usual kind of advert I post, but it amused me, and I just love the guy who dies of superglue eating! It’s a bit of fun, even if for such a serious matter, with a different death each time it makes you want to stay and watch right until the end, wouldn’t have guessed it was by Metro though!

View original post

MPG Gate – Korean Auto Manufacturers Overstate Mileage Estimates

Do you check the mileage estimates when you buy a new car? Did you buy a car recently? If you did and you purchased a Kia or Hyundai over the past two years, some of those mileage numbers were wrong.

On Friday November 2nd, we learned that the EPA discovered Hyundai/Kia overstated gas mileage on several of their models from 2011 to 2013.

They have agreed to reimburse owners of the affected models through a prepaid card that will reimburse them for the difference in the combined fuel consumption rating. And they will add another 15% as an acknowledgement of ‘inconvenience’.

There has been suspicion over the Korean carmakers mileage claims for some time and those complaints prompted the EPA to open an investigation. The audit found almost 35% of their cars to have over represented mileage performance. As a result, the two automakers will have to reduce mileage posted on the window stickers of most of their models anywhere from 1 to 6 miles per gallon down.

Affected models for Hyundai include:

  • Elantra, Sonata Hybrid, Accent, Azerra (not sold in Canada), Genesis, Tuscon, Veloster, Elantra coupe, Elantra GT and the Sante Fe Sport

Affected models for Kia include:

  • Rio, Sportage, Sorento, Soul, Soul ECO and Optima HEV

Depending on the cost per owner, the bill to these companies will be hundreds of millions of dollars (a CLSA estimate pegged the annual cost at $81 million/year). That of course does not take into account the cost of class action lawsuits and any sales impact to the brands in the coming months. Share prices fell on Monday by 7% but clawed some of that back on Tuesday.

This crisis do not have to cripple the companies. Look at how Audi moved past the Audi 5000 issue in the 80s (but it took them 5 years). And whereas Toyota has made progress since the 2009 recall, with the Tsunami and subsequent quality errors, they haven`t had a chance to put bad news behind them. What should these manufacturers do? Here are a few ideas:

 1. Admit the mistake

Be out front of the error. Be upfront, candid and own the mistake. It seems as though the announcement (or discovery) came around the same time the EPA made their announcement so they were not that forthcoming. They did admit being at fault but said it was a ‘measurement’ error. Whether that’s true or not, it seems odd a company of this size could get it right on some models and wrong on others. I would give them an F.

2. Compensate affected owners … generously

Today’s owners are tomorrow’s buyers. That makes this segment the most important in the long term (more so than current prospects). So treat these people well, especially those directly affected. Ensure people feel that you are more than compensating them for their loss. It appears they are doing so by working with owners to calculate their mileage individually and with the 15% inconvenience premium. I would give them a B.

3. Talk to existing owners

Hyundai has the #1 repurchase rate in the industry this year (JD Power and Associates, 2012) All owners need to be contacted directly (i.e. direct mail, short broadcast run, when they come into the dealer) to explain what happened, apologize for the error, talk about what they’re doing to cover the incremental cost to affected owners and what plan they have in place to ensure this never happens again. This point doesn’t need to be belaboured, but each owner should get the story from the manufacturer. Satisfied current owners make future sales more likely.

4. Monitor sales impact and track to brand reputation  

JD Power also discovered this year that more buyers base purchase their decision to b on brand reputation than ratings and reviews. Toyota sales dropped 15% the first month after it`s 2009 and 2010 recall crisis (Forbes). Depending on how step the decline is in these measures will determine how much the next two suggestions need to be worked.    

5. Revise the marketing message

Fuel mileage has been a centrepiece of their advertising for some time. Given the strength of that message has been diluted and because it will be a hot (negative) topic for some time, they need to illuminate other brand and model attributes in their communications right down to dealership sales scripts.

6. Prime the Pump

When my wife and I bought our Sonata this spring one of the features that hooked us was 0% financing for up to 72 months. I suspect they will need to bring back incentives so as not to lose too much momentum in the market. If this error causes people to re-think the brand`s overall value, they need to come up with ways to fill that gap and get people into dealerships.

My ‘First’ Post

My aim in coming (back) here is to learn from others and where I have experience, share that in return. I am a marketer with more than 15 years experience working for brands such as American Express, Sears, Petro-Canada (gas retail), Rogers (telecom), Blockbuster, ReMax and now Canada Post (like USPS). I think I know a fair a bit about marketing but I am aware that I don’t know everything (despite what I tell my mother …  and wife). And like any field of study, we all stand on the shoulders of the giants how preceded us. And so for that reason, I am a learned but humble marketer here to practice and learn more about my craft. 


I operated my own blog a few years ago when I was a real estate agent, but stopped when I came back to the ‘corporate’ world. I work as a consultant in the direct mail industry for Canada Post and recognize that I need to get back into digital and more specifically jump back in to social.

I have always been a newshound and lifelong learner so participating in discussions with others is something I enjoy.  Now I just need to make more time to do so here (sorry to the producers of night-time TV).

I took a social media course last week and was re-inspired. I signed up to twitter, sent my first few tweets (no one called me an idiot so I guess I did it right) and registered this blog. I even went out to buy a new iPad mini so I could do some of this in front of the TV (trying CBS, NBC, ABC…). I was not one of the ‘lucky’ 3 million buyers who got to a store on time this Saturday.

As a marketer and certainly as a direct marketer, tracking response and analyzing numbers is in my DNA.  I listened to a podcast today (Michael Stelzner interviewing Pat Flynn) and was motivated even more (@mike_stelzner and  @patflynn respectively – do check them both out). One of the things that Pat said that he discovered was that the more he shared, the more transparent he was in what he was doing online with others, the more he learned from others when they did the same in return. So as a re-born social citizen, I plan to do the same.

Over the coming weeks and months I will track what I do in this space and share it. Good or bad, I suspect I will learn firsthand what to do and not to do. Along the way I hope to have some help from likeminded social compatriots. And that through this exercise, pass along a few valuable lessons learned to others.

So if you become a follower, I am humbled and I thank you. I hope, no expect that we will learn and from each other along this journey and have a wee bit of fun.

 thanks,  David T