Attending the DMA &THEN Conference
The 2015 DMA &THEN conference is an interesting event, but definitely an event in transition.
The DMA itself is having a bit of an identity crisis. While DMA stands for Direct Marketing Association, the tagline on www.dma.org is, “Advancing and Protecting Responsible Data-Driven Marketing.” So, is it all about old-fashioned direct marketing, or data-driven digital marketing? I don’t think the DMA is quite sure itself, and that was reflected in the event, exhibitors and attendees.
There was an almost 50/50 split on the show floor. In the large hall of the Boston Convention Center, there was a central presentation theater-in-the-round where experts, professional speakers and pundits gave talks. To the left of the theater were traditional direct marketing companies ranging from envelope vendors, binder printers, and both the US and Canadian Postal Services. To the right was Telerik, IBM, Marketo, and a host of other technology providers and digital agencies that were clearly on the online edge of the marketing equation. It just shows that while technology vendors and digital agencies might think about online interactions 24/7, there are still companies keeping the lights on doing physical mailings and printing.
But that’s quickly changing.
I was having a delicious boxed lunch with two people from an organization in the Midwest that work with senior citizens’ insurance, and they told me an interesting story. They said that although they have been firmly in the direct mail world, in the next few years they would have to make a major change. Many might think of seniors as non-tech savvy, but they brought up a great point: someone who turns 65 this year has probably had a computer at home since they were 20 years old, has been on the Internet since its inception in the early 90s, and has had a smartphone as long as any teenager. They told me that many senior citizens are not tolerating getting letters in the mail and binders by UPS anymore, and they have to change their business. Like many of the people I spoke to at the event, they were moving from the old side of the hall and exploring the new offerings. I think it says something that while the world is moving to digital, there are thousands of organizations that are still either holding on to that paper binder, or making their money printing them.
But your grandmother is currently texting her girlfriends and live chatting her salon to schedule an appointment, and we all better get used to it.