I've written a lot about the Web as a premier marketing tool over the last six or seven years. I've even been called a "wild-eyed advocate" at times. But in a larger vein, "it" all came home to roost for me in the last ten days, thanks to a rather large series of coincidences.
The "it": "Big 3" TV ad-marketing-customer connection dominance is ... dead. Welcome to ... Direct World! As to those Coincidences:
(1) Ten days ago I was in Aspen, Colorado, attending a client meeting for infoUSA. By some measures the $300-million Omaha-based company maintains the largest private customer/client/human database in the U.S.A. I chatted into the wee small hours with scores of database-direct marketing gurus/execs from firms of all sizes and shapes.
(2) Last Tuesday I listened as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee claimed on prime time that the Dems have caught up with the Republicans on life and death issues of database reach and effectiveness. (Also listened to Howard Dean's remarks—while he is a clear "loser," his grassroots-Web initiatives certainly will be perhaps the highest impact happening in politics in the last 50 years.) (Incidentally, infoUSA is, I understand, intimately involved in the transformation-reformation of the Democrats' Herculean direct customer/voter contact activities.)
(3) Also last week I began to shape a Tom Peters Company relationship with BzzAgent.com, one of the most intriguing Web-based proactive-purposeful-strategic "buzz builders" around. Their slogan: Exponential Word of Mouth Marketing and Customer Feedback Programs. (I'm going to test them on some forthcoming publications—stay tuned.)
(4) Upon re-reading Michael Levine's Guerrilla PR Wired: Waging a Successful Publicity Campaign Online, Offline, and Everywhere in Between, I summarily decided that my future—for good or for ill—lies to a significant degree in blogging. (Again: Stay tuned!)
(5) I went to dinner with some high-powered "party plan" consultants working with my wife's home furnishings business; she is contemplating a major strategic thrust in customer intimacy (and market share!) via an aggressive foray into home parties. (I agree with her. Stay tuned!)
(6) Finally, this past Friday and Saturday I attended a "little get-together" of about 15,000 reps-independent contractors from the field force of the World Financial Group, a huge "MLM"/Multi-Level Marketing organization which is owned by the giant Dutch insurer AEGON N.V. While I've had some skepticism about some MLM activities, I attribute that in part to a marketing traditionalist's (me) inherent bias. I left fascinated and intrigued and ready to shed my biases.
Bottom line: Who knows why all six of these things occurred in the space of just nine days? Whatever the cause, it ended up being an accumulation of affairs the led me to the edge of a—and over the edge—tipping point. (Maybe even an epiphany!?) Supporting data point: In the last decade, mega-giant American Express has reduced its share of marketing dollars spent on TV from 80 percent to 35 percent, according to Ad Age ... and American Express is hardly alone.
To me it (now/finally) seems obvious that everything from mass-customization manufacturing, Dell-style, to the Web, to databases such as infoUSA's and database manipulation software from the likes of Oracle to "CRM" (Customer Relationship Management) software from Seibel Systems, salesforce.com, et al., to MLM's increasing legitimacy and reach is racing, raging in the same direction: the first truly revolutionary shift in "customer contact" (marketing!) since the advent of "modern" marketing at P&G and the Harvard Business School 50 to 75 years ago. Winners (survivors!) of all shapes and sizes will ... Think Direct ... first and foremost! That is: Welcome to Direct World! On the bus ... or off the bus. Posthaste.