Clapper Databases, the Metaverse, and the Future of Direct Marketing

Back in the 1980s, industry consultant Don Libey recalls he told a group of direct marketers about this up-and-coming medium called the Internet and how it would change everything everyone had ever learned about the tactic… and he was laughed at.

Two decades later, the multichannel merchants attending last week’s MeritDirect Business Mailer’s Co-op and Interactive Marketing Conference in White Plains, NY, paid more serious attention to Libey as he delivered the luncheon presentation, entitled “The Three Next Big Things and the Three Next Little Things That Will Turn Multichannel Marketing Inside Out.”

Some of his ideas may sound far-fetched, Libey conceded–but he did remind everyone that he had been right before about some of his futuristic thinking. Libey added that the three big things and three little things will determine whether today’s direct marketers will survive and prosper or wither into irrelevancy.

Big thing #1: a “clapper” database

That’s right: Clap on, clap off. Clapping–figuratively if not literally–would light up all the missing customers and prospects and make them visible again to marketers.

“Why are we rebuying names constantly?” Libey asked. “We need to track people and use that information to improve retention rates. In three years, you will see it, a ‘metabase’ that track across all channels. It will include more appendable information, and it will allow the industry to be more productive.”

Little thing #1: video lists

Libey’s concept of video mail, or v-mail, is one in which marketers can segment customers by the type of device they use. “The world is visual, not analytical, and most people respond to visual stimuli,” Libey said. “The media becomes the list. You can send your v-mail messages to iPod responders, BlackBerry responders, whatever format your customer uses.”

Big thing #2: multichannel direct marketing accountability standards

Right now, accountability standards among marketers are like snowflakes: No two are alike. In contast, Libey said, from bank to bank, the money is counted the same. And he thinks accountability standards are on the way for the direct marketing industry.

“You go from one catalog company to another, and you have to learn a whole new set of metrics,” Libey complained. “Soon, all that will be cut and dry, and as an industry, we will have arrived.”

Uniform standards could have a downside, however: Libey feared that they would suck the imagination out of an industry that is driven by creativity.

Little thing #2: filter, not search

“You all built systems to find the haystack,” Libey said, referring to search engine optimization. “Now build ones that find the needle.”

Big thing #3: the metaverse

The metaverse would link all sources of media and roll them into one seamless network, Libey contended. Webinars, he pointed out, which bring together the Internet and television, are already gaining ground.

“The Internet will become a utility, and there will be new charges and tiers involved,” Libey said.

Little thing #3: extreme direct marketing

Printers are on the verge of putting RFID chips in ink, Libey said. And when that happens, consumers will be able to hold a device over a catalog and find out if the item is in stock, among other information.

“It’s way too much information for the consumer, but it’s absolutely going to happen,” Libey said.

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