The DMA is celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year. Over the past century, DMA has served as the backdrop for the progression of marketing from direct mail through the data-inspired digital age. Yet, many people still associate DMA solely with “direct mail”. When the current CEO, Tom Benton, joined DMA in 2014, he realized that the mission of the organization had far outgrown the “out-of-date” perception that some people still held. He knew that there was an opportunity to deliver even greater value to members. Consequently, he has led the organization to drive greater clarity of purpose and to share this via a re-envisioned brand—the Data Marketing Association. Below is Benton’s insight on why they embarked on a brand evolution and the key pain points they hope to address.
Kimberly Whitler: As CEO of the DMA, why did you feel it necessary to evolve the brand?
Tom Benton: When I first arrived at the DMA, I felt that the organization could deliver greater value by transforming its own brand relevance. The DMA is at the center of what is happening with marketing and yet the world didn’t perceive this. Part of the challenge is that the organization didn’t evolve quickly enough. The market still perceived the DMA as the Direct Mail Association. I felt that to address this disconnect, we had to practice what we preach. We needed to infuse the company with more of a data-centric approach to strategy and brand development. Before I changed the name of the company, I wanted to clarify our position and make sure that our programs supported this position and part of this was identifying member pain points and making sure that our brand and strategic plan addressed these.
Whitler: What is the clarified position?
Benton: The Data Marketing Association is composed of members that seek to maximize efficiency and convenience for their customers. We’re centered on developing 1:1 customer relationships at scale by developing and using technology to transform data into actionable insight. DMA sits at the center of data-driven marketing and advertising. In fact, DMA is the only marketing and advertising association that represents and has voting members from all sectors of the ecosystem. The DMA staff is data driven itself as it taps the collective wisdom of the Data Marketing community to help its members use data to better serve its customers, drive growth for their organizations and to advance their careers.
To deliver this, we identified four pillars. The first pillar is Advocacy. We set standards for the ethical and responsible use of data and demonstrate to the federal and state governments that industry self-regulation is more nimble, efficient and effective than government regulation. The second pillar is Innovation. Based on in-depth interviews with DMA members, we developed our Structured Innovation Program that is designed to identify and solve sector problems, such as the challenges with cross-device marketing, identity, attribution and GDPR or General Data Protection Regulation that is looming on the horizon in Europe. The third pillar is Education. A new initiative here our DMA360.org platform. DMA360 was designed to address members’ need for an objective resource that can be accessed online which helps marketers keep pace with emerging technology and techniques with which others are having success. It’s kind of a mashup of YouTube, Yelp, Khan Academy, Facebook and TED, where solution providers post short videos, case studies and white papers to share their expertise. Viewers self-curate and prioritize the content by upvoting that which they find most valuable. It’s a unique solution that was developed by DMA members. And the fourth pillar is Connect. Through large events like THEN, our annual event, or smaller events like our Marketing Analytics Conference, Email Evolution Conference, Nonprofit Federation Conferences or regional roundtables, we bring together marketers and suppliers to collaborate and learn from each other in entertaining and engaging environments. Once we developed the pillars and had the plans that supported them, we changed the name to Data Marketing Association to better reflect our new, broader positioning.
Whitler: You talked a little about becoming more data-centric. You have a birds-eye-view on company data-centricity. Who do you think is a really strong data-driven company and why?
Benton: It all starts with that fork in the road. Are you a firm that believes that if you will build it they will come? Or, and I would argue that this is the better route, do you conduct research and use data to determine what a person needs and what it is that they are interested in and then go build it? The best companies are using data to determine what consumers want and need and then develop their offering and messaging around this. One of the more advanced uses of data to improve customer experience is on display in the 1-800 Flowers, IBM Watson-powered concierge service that enables customers to achieve more personalized results, at scale. This collaboration between two DMA members – one founded in 1976 and the other over 100 years ago in 1911 – utilizes augmented intelligence to allow marketers to glean insights from the increasing mounds of data they collect from customers. Those insights result in an improved relationship between brand and customer, thereby creating value for both the brand and the customer. Both of these companies are featured prominently via keynote speakers at DMA’s THEN. Collaboration and evolution like this is what DMA helps to foster through its education programs and at events like THEN.
Whitler: You mentioned earlier that the evolved positioning addresses marketers’ key pain points. What are these pain points?
Benton: Many marketers are struggling to fully grasp customer identity, particularly across devices. What we heard from our members is that the brand marketers and the cross-device technology providers were even having trouble communicating with each other, using different language and definitions to talk about the same thing. So our first project in our Structured Innovation Program was to develop a Cross-Device Identification Template RFP, that contained definitions and set questions that brands and agencies should ask technology providers about cross-device marketing. That program has now expanded and is working on additional issues around identity and attribution.
As I mentioned before, another concern for marketers is the upcoming GDPR regulations in Europe. These will come into effect in 2018, and a number of companies are only now paying attention. DMA is developing a working group to inform American marketers about these rules and the steps they need to take to ensure they are prepared – think of it as a marketer’s GDPR toolkit.
Join the Discussion: @KimWhitler