Digital-first Brands - marketing spaghetti.

5 Minute Read 18 October 2022
Digital first brands are heading back to where distance selling began. Here's why:

Digital first brands are heading back to where distance selling began. Here's why:

Direct Mail (DM) always 'worked' but the ROI was questionable, most of it, un-attributable, and the wastage was verging on unacceptable.

Over the last two decades, Digital First Brands accelerated growth through all the traditional digital methods, and that worked too. Billion dollar businesses mushroomed, seemingly overnight. As a result, marketing efforts were diverted away from  mass, untargeted DM, and quite rightly too.

Digital marketing became increasingly measurable, to the extent Brands convinced themselves that spending over 100% of transaction value on Customer Acquisition via PPC was the right and necessary thing to do. Whilst our friends at Google et al were counting their trillions, the concept of 'Lifetime Value' was born. 

'We'll make on the second order'. Or maybe the third. Or not at all.

Brands were hooked on a traffic drug they could not kick. 

Have no fear, Email marketing  is here. Batch and blast came (and sadly, is still largely here). Good lists deliver a 15% open rate and really relevant content may even deliver a 2% CTR. "But that's ok, It's cheap, and "sustainable".  Or perhaps not.  The digital junk yards are filling up and the Customer literally cannot see the wood for the (digital) trees. Here’s the scoop on the latest environmental facts.

Let us not forget, 'subscribers' are actually people. People with intelligence, emotion, and tolerance thresholds. Not a unit of measure. Not a stat in your CDP. Actual people. I mean, you might love your Mum, but she doesn't want to hear from you every day.

Retargeting! That's the answer! "Hunt them down, wherever they may be digitally lurking, and we won't stop til they shop". Or until we run out of ££ . 

Hark back to May 2018 as we ushered in GDPR. Absolutely the right thing to do. No question.  But there were many questions. 295 pages of legal ease emanated from Brussels, creating a sea of grey.  No black and white. Some brands near-on ignored it's very existence, whilst others were over zealous in their compliance attempts, fearing Company-terminating fines. Databases were decimated whilst lawyers coined it in (what else is new?).

Back at Google HQ, attribution of digital marketing spend became infinitely more challenging. 'Last click' too simplistic, we were introduced to fractional attribution models. In other words, fog. Switched-on Marketing professionals can now make any Board level report deliver any message they want it to.

Add in a few search algo updates: Panda; Penguin and Pigeon, to name but a few, and we start to see a hazy picture of site traffic, with a definite bias towards Brands who remain addicted.

Because e-commerce is not complex enough, let's add Apple's latest privacy move, with Android in hot pursuit.  Now, if you make it through the dense fog, you find a not-so-healthy bowl of spaghetti to pick your way through if you really want to understand your channel ROIs.

It's a tough gig, being a Marketing Pro in today's digital world, but hey,  "that's why they pay you the big bucks"!

Fast forward to today: Brands enjoyed a bit of a reprieve in Covid times in terms of Ad spend and ROI but much like the virus, that too is a thing of the past. We're now seeing Ad spend, in some cases, way north of 100% (of transaction value) again.  Your marketing dollar is being diluted across every conceivable channel: from Insta, Tiktok, Snapchat to Facebook; retargeting to email, and PPC to SEO. Your spend options are limitless, your budget, less so. And whilst on the subject of limits, spare a thought for your over worked Content & Creative teams who are challenged with producing content for all these channels.

So where are we?

In a veritable din of digital noise.  In fact, the world is so full of digital noise, we've had to invent a new world, a metaverse. God help us all.. a what? Perhaps I'm not alone in hitting mute (unsubscribe). Objecting to every cookie on every policy adds 10 minutes to my digi day but I reckon it's a fair price to pay, for a little peace.

But Brands still need to effectively and genuinely communicate, that has and never will change. Whilst marketing methods will come, and go, some come back again, reimagined.  Marketing methods with a genuine Customer-first ethos, with the (real) world we live in close at heart, and demonstrable, uncomplicated ROI, will always prevail. The resurgence of DM however, comes with one caveat: Less is more.

And that, you guessed it, my Marketing professional friend, is back to where distance selling all started - in your Customer's letter box.
To supercharge your Programmatic Direct Mail, head to

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