How Branding Relates to Lists and Data

Branding is the relationship that a consumer develops with a product, service, and company through interactions with that company. These days everyone’s talking about branding and its importance in growing a catalog/Web business in the multichannel space.

But ask five marketers what branding means to their business, and I’ll bet you’ll receive at least seven different answers. The mere fact that so many marketers have joined the conversation, however, means that we’ve come light years from the days when the “marketing plan” consisted solely of the circulation plan.

First of all, why has branding finally assumed the importance it deserves in direct marketing after all these years? The most important reasons include:

  • Competition – the emergence of the Web has enabled large, branded retailers to enter the direct marketing space in a big way. This means that our competition now includes Macy’s, Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and a host of others that are now catalogers’ direct competitors.
  • Opportunity – the Web has also enabled traditional catalogers to compete directly with their branded retail counterpoints on an equal footing, so long as they use every tool at their disposal.
  • The need for integration – the single most important tool for giving your customers a complete view of your business regardless of channel is branding. Without an effective brand marketing strategy across all channels, your customers will not be able to develop that close relationship with your company and your products.

To maximize the power of your brand, the image needs to be consistent whenever you connect with the consumer – online, in space advertising, in catalog mailings, and in your customer service and product fulfillment.

How does this manifest itself in your use of lists and data? Here are a few examples:

  • Are you using all of your data in marketing to your customer – past purchase history, return experience, seasonality, gender?
  • Are you seizing every opportunity to communicate your brand to your customer – e.g., order confirmations, packing slips and packages, customer service calls, order follow-ups? Each of these interactions represents not only a selling opportunity (direct marketers have always been excellent at this), but a branding opportunity. Each offers a chance to broaden and deepen your customer’s perception of your company and their relationship with you.
  • In your online prospecting, (search, banners, e-mail, etc.) are you sending out an effective brand message as well as strong selling proposition?
  • Are your affiliates chosen with great care and monitored closely, not only for their financial performance, but also for their impact on your brand?
  • Are your prospecting lists chosen and segmented to ensure that only consumers with a propensity for your brand are in your circulation mix?
  • Is the brand message in your catalog mailings consistent with that presented in space and online?
  • Most importantly, is your customer service, product quality, and order fulfillment consistent with the brand image you’re creating?

Effective brand marketing begins with a vision that is then communicated through every interaction with your customers and prospects. Effective branding will ensure that response keeps growing, purchase frequency increases, and average purchase keeps climbing. Our friends in the packaged goods industry have known this for generations. It’s exciting to see the direct marketing community embracing this powerful tool for growth.

Steve Tamke is senior vice president of Hackensack, NJ-based list services firm Mokrynskidirect. He may be reached at

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