World Cup – and experiences remembered

by Michael on 2 July, 2014

One of the advantages of age, pre senility anyway, is experiencing a lot more things than most people still working in direct marketing, or indeed anywhere. And the World Cup always starts me reminiscing.

Yes, I remember 1966 and not only remember it, but exactly where I watched it. Well, not exactly, but it was in a bar in Mainz in Germany. We were on a school trip, and a pal and I managed to find a bar where we could watch the game, and were in there first, way before kick off. We were also under aged, at least for the UK, but started with a beer each which was chalked on the side of the beer mat. When we left about 3 hours later, we had 8 chalks each. And as the bar filled up, we weren’t really aware that there were 2 English kids at the best table surrounded by a roomful of German locals. So we cheered when we scored and got a big surprise at the huge, guttural roar (stereotyping yes, true yes) when they scored. But nobody bothered us or said a word, and I think they’d all left by the time we’d paid and staggered back to where we were staying, with barely a soul in sight. Not sure we’d be as safe now.

So maybe that’s a tale for our times, but anybody under 55 or so won’t have the experience of remembering  England winning the World Cup, and indeed may well never have that pleasure in their lifetime. So there!

And for me, if we do ever win the World Cup again in my lifetime, it’s a repeat experience. And that’s what I see in a lot of the so-called breakthroughs and innovations in direct and digital marketing these days. One person’s breakthrough is another person’s re-inventing the wheel, and there is so much of that going on because of the lack of real experience across direct marketing. So I’m delighted to see that some emailers are now getting into proper testing and seem to be catching up quickly. They’ve probably caught up 10 years in the last couple of years, which sort of puts them in the mid to late 1980’s in comparison to direct mail at the time, although their database marketing  skills bear more comparison with the early 1980’s.

Clearly, we are in a different, multi-channel, much faster moving world, and many of the parameters need to be more agile and much faster in terms of reacting, but the core principles around lifetime value concepts, key to mail order and similar 30 years ago, still exist. It is impossible to measure the core data skill sets of an industry in comparison to 30 years ago, and it is obviously now a lot more complicated, and maybe it’s simply that in the 1980’s, we had a single channel to cover and we worked on life time values over 5 years, so we had the time and reason to learn. And maybe in some companies it is just as sophisticated but not as much at the forefront, behind a plethora of new opportunities and channels. Where data isn’t seen to be core to a business though, a lot of what used to be standard practice has simply disappeared.

Of course the expertise still exists, but having spent the last 10 years criticising digital expertise for existing in departmental silos, it seems to me that data expertise is now in silos of its own, rather than industry wide.

Michael Howe

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