Writing a few articles on Direct Marketing will be a piece of cake. At least, that's what I thought.Especially for someone who is almost obsessive about the cause and goes about vehemently announcing it to the world at large. Well, to my shock and horror, what seemed like a walk in the park turned out to be one hell of an arduous task.
Bewildered and most definitely flustered, I spent a few days trying to put a finger on the reasons for this almost desperate sense of memory loss. I finally figured it came from the haziness and ambiguity that surrounds DM in this part of the world.
Surely, some fellow colleagues would echo the same feeling if they happen to read this article. What seems to amaze me is that in a world when almost every facet of marketing and communication seems to be taking a whirlwind change, the wheels of Direct Marketing seem to be just about getting in motion here (or are they ?)
I wondered, why? Especially when the usefulness of DM's need, necessity and relevance in today's marketing mix is no secret. This apart, DM, as a discipline, has a proven track record of global success over the last 20 years. So, why is it in India that we are still battling to find our feet and having to explain why Direct Marketing is so strategically important? Why isn't DM getting a chance that it so rightly deserves?
Well, DM's lacklustre presence is possibly due to the sheer apathy and dogged indifference shared by some that keeps it from getting its due importance. If not, then maybe it's on account of everybody on the clients' side â€" as well as in many ad agencies, if I may dare say so â€" waiting for some big success story to happen and then emulate the same. Or, without sounding presumptuous, it can be just due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of DM that has left the subject out in the cold. I guess, if one researched the same at length, then probably reasonable dosages of all these reasons would be offered as explanations.
To take the issue a little further and explore a reasonable rationale, one might have to dig a little deeper, a more micro understanding of the issue. For example, if one went down to the grass-root level of marketing management education and observed, it would be discovered that DM is never more than a single session of the A&P elective taught at any B-school. Seen in this light, the fundamental lack of knowledge across-the-board suddenly makes eminent sense.
The moot point being: If you haven't learnt it, how would you ever practice it? No wonder then that one gets only a lukewarm appreciation when one mentions Direct Marketing in the corporate world.
In fact, apart from MICA where Direct Marketing became a part of the curriculum only recently , no other Communications School really teaches the discipline (definitely not to my knowledge) . That helps me to understand why we have a trickle of kids joining up in the DM business and why only a few understand the science of DM.
Let me clarify here that it's not that people aren't practicing DM in organisations and that agencies have been sitting around doing nothing. In fact, some have met with reasonable success over the years and have won awards as well but I can assure you that a majority are still grappling with the basics. I, for one, can definitely vouch for having worked with a few clients who have an openness and willingness to walk the talk. However, a lot many that I meet on a regular basis, dismiss it as a sheer waste of time and money.
Therefore, in writing this article, the attempt was to somehow resurrect DM's importance and in some way, create a knowledge platform for DM on a website that is visited by a lot many advertising veterans and marketing professionals. Give Direct Marketing a fair chance of evolving into a discipline that it so rightfully deserves.
(Glen Ireland is VP & business development director, ThompsonConnect)
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