direct-marketing, legislating, regulating

Who you not gonna call?: Privacy, cold-calling, and the cost of being in business in the conversation age

Telemarketing_don't_call or else… pic source
battle lines are currently being drawn on Australian soil over proposed changes to the Do Not Call Register, a list to which people sign to prevent telemarketers calling them with cold calls.  the changes would add small businesses to the list, effectively barring any business – whether they're using third party telemarketers or not – from cold calling people to drum up business.

as you can imagine, some interested parties are challenging the move.  B&T reports that the Australian Association of National Advertisers last month urged the Government to reconsider its plans.  and this week sees the publication of research commissioned by News Ltd's online business directory, showing that the proposed broadening of privacy legislation will negatively impact some half a million businesses across Australia.  TrueLocal chief exec John Allan is concerned…

“We oppose it as we believe it is anti-competitive for Australia’s new and emerging businesses, as they will be unable to contact an estimated 30% of prospective customers to establish a new relationship … It will therefore favour big businesses and larger incumbents who have existing relationships and disadvantage smaller companies working hard to attract new business … Additionally, the majority of small businesses have said they simply do not have the resources to easily check their contact information against the Government’s Do Not Call list and the legislation would increase the operating cost for nearly 50% of small businesses.”

there's a few things going on here.  but putting short term protectionism aside, the fight highlights – if nothing else – the implications for businesses and brands as we evolve into a new comms paradigm.  the simple fact is that if Maureen who runs a flower shop in Surry Hills (who may or may not exist but I like to think that she might) picks up the phone book and starts calling some of the people in the vicinity she could be fined.  fined for calling someone up.  because Maureen hadn't kept a list of contacts nor had that list cleaned again the Do Not Call register.  I have some sympathy with Maureen, but not half as much sympathy as I do for Bob, and Charlotte, and Mike and Su and Dave and Pete and Geoff and hundreds of thousands of people like them who get calls they neither want or need from brands and businesses who feel they have the right to call them and sell them something.

if one thing is true it is this: that the box in the living room thru which we used to view the world is now the box of a search engine.  brands used to broadcast to everyone and hoped and expected that enough people responded.  now the deer have guns, and those same people at whom brands used to broadcast, can now access what they want – and only what they want – on their terms.  and in many ways that's what the brewing storm between Australian advertisers and the proposed government privacy legislation is all about.  telemarketing was born out of a broadcast age, and as that age wains so too will the lazy, inefficient and unwarranted presence of brands that start one-way conversations that the vast majority of people will never want to have.

contrary to what Mark Zuckerberg would have us believe, privacy is not dead, in many ways its more alive and more important than ever.  its just that privacy is no longer assumed, it has to be ensured – by both people and by brands.  just as people have to be aware of the levels of personal data and information they put out there, so too must brands and businesses now be aware of who wants to be cold called and who doesn't (it would seem by the way that 30% of Australians don't).  and like it or not that's just a cost of being in business now.

small businesses have more than a little hope to cling to however…  in fact its probably John Allan's very same "new and emerging businesses" that, far from being at a disadvantage to the big players and their telemarketing machines, will hold the advantage.  these little fish, these challengers, these service and people orientated businesses and brands will thrive in a post-broadcast age because they'll be forced to have something interesting to talk about so that people cold call them.  they will have to create noise.  and that too will be the cost but also the significant reward of being in business in an age where people, not businesses, start more valuable and fruitful conversations than were ever had at the end of a telemarketer's cold call.

direct-marketing, popping up

Popping up at Somerset House: How Bombay Sapphire’s Dusk Bar is engaging drikers with it’s botanicals intrinsics story (and mixes a mean cocktail)

Bar_logo so last night Mediation went along to the launch event for Bombay Sapphire's Dusk Bar at Somerset House.  the pop-up – which will have residency at the site for the duration of the summer – is an explosion of illuminated blue plastic and metal, the brief of 'bring the iconic bottle to life' being more than met.

what's was more interesting though was the expression of the product intrinsics at the bar.  all spirits are comprised of 'botanicals' – key flavours and ingredients that contribute to the spirits taste profile.  Bombay Sapphire has ten – all of which were on display in various forms at the event.

the actual botanicals were there in bowls themselves, everything from the juniper berry (natch) to the Orris root and Grains of Paradise amongst others; but beyond this, Bombay Sapphire had asked ten leading mixologists from London's most fashionable bars to each create a cocktail from the bar. each cocktail is inspired by a botanical ie key product intrinsic (Mediation's favourite turned out to be the one with elderflower cordial but I can't remember it's name).

so the question of whether or not Bombay Sapphire and Co. can mix an awesome cocktail aside (they can) there's the bigger question of why do a pop-up bar in the first place?  what's it adding?  who is it for?  and what's the payback?

I put this question to a few bar trade magazine editors who were present, and beyond "it get's Bombay Sapphire talked about" it was hard to track down more of a specific answer.  presumably there's hard and soft measures for this kind of thing…  hard ones along the lines of 'does the bar pay for itself?', how many people do we engage with an experience of the course of the summer?' etc.  these and more like them should pay back in the immediate term.

as always though its the longer term softer effects that are harder to pin down.  does the experience change people's attitude and perception of Bombay Sapphire?  does it help increase their brand reputation scores?  and crucially, will in increase the volume of Bombay Sapphire sold in bar and in future consumption thru supermarkets.  the brand has a lot to do – gin consumption is in free-fall (down 14.5% year on year).

I can't answer any of those questions, but I hope Bombay Sapphire can.  because an investment of this scale, even if it is paying back, should be aligned to a very specific long term strategy and objective.  from my perspective, if it was to communicate the existence and balance of intrinsics, as well as change my perception of gin-based cocktails, it was a job well done.  and that's not just the cocktails talking.


the Bombay Sapphire Dusk Bar is popping up at Somerset House until October 2009, for more details see their blog


Practicing what they preach: Mail Media Centre in ‘DM with utility’ shocker

its a rare thing useful DM.  companies seem more than content to send me the same mailers time and time again, in the mistaken notion that this time I'll respond.  when will they understand that I will – in my own good time – type what I want, when I want it, into the Google?

but I have been shaken out of my negativity by a piece of DM that is not only really rather pertinent to what it's trying to tell me (the power of touch), but has more utility than a useful thing in a tight spot…  and whilst a 'reusable pack to warm you up when you need it' may not change the world as we know it, its infinitely more useful than a letter from Virgin telling me (again) that 865 Terra Byte broadband is now available in my postcode.

the effort is on behalf of the Mail Media Centre, a new source of intelligence and innovation for the direct mail
industry courtesy of Royal Mail.  the site aims to showcase – to planners and clients – compelling
creative and expert advice, with the aim of encouraging excellence in direct mail.

the site is packed with case studies, stats, expert opinion on DM and even a response rate calculator to give you a steer on the number of impacts that might stick.  all of which is good for two reasons…

one, DM isn't in my experience planned as closely alongside other media as it could, so anything that encourages planners (of all disciplines) to know more about how to plan the channel should be welcomed.  two, even when it is integrated is isn't in my experience done very well…  some great examples of stand-alone retailer use of the channel exist in the form of Tesco Clubcard and Boots Advantage Card mailings, but on the whole we seem to be satisfied with long copy and a 1.2% response rate.

getting something with utility from your brand and into the hands of your consumers is something that has a role to play in more than a few strategies, the trick is (1) targeting, so that you only invest in reaching the people you need to reach, (2) creativity, so that people invest their time and attention into what you're sending them and (3) building 'reasons to pass on'into the collateral you deploy: focus on a tighter group of people and give them reasons (and reward) to target other people on your behalf.

there's a storm heading for the DM industry and its called sustainability.  DM needs to demonstrate that it has a necessary, efficient and effective role to play on any schedule.  the MMC's initiative, and the useful bit of DM that it deployed to me, are two solid steps along the way.