Ever wonder who is responsible for making those coupons you receive in the mail? Or the Saab videotape you've received every two years since you bought your car in 1993? You can thank direct marketers. Direct marketers are masters in one-to-one marketing. Direct marketers assemble databases of individual consumers who fit within their target market, go after them with a personal approach, and manage the production process from strategy inception to out-the-door distribution.
Direct marketers have two main objectives: to stay in touch with their current consumer base and to try and generate more business by finding individuals who fit a target set of criteria but are not currently using their particular product. For instance, if you've ever checked out of the supermarket and got a coupon for Advil after buying a bottle of Tylenol, chances are a direct marketer is trying to convince you to switch brands by offering you a monetary incentive.
If you're working with a major brand company like Nike, Disney, Pepsi, or L'Oreal, chances are you'll do a lot of cross-promotion, or "affiliate marketing." For instance, Nike has marketing relationships with the NBA, NFL, and a variety of individual athletes and athletic team. Disney has a huge relationship with McDonald's; cute toys from the entertainment company's latest flick are packaged with McDonald's Happy Meals upon the release of each new movie. L'Oreal works with celebrities like Heather Locklear and sponsors events such as the annual Academy Awards.
Marketers must manage the relationship between any two entities. If Disney wants to promote the cartoon du jour with McDonalds, or Pepsi wants to make sure that all Six Flags theme parks have a Pepsi Ride, then marketers ensure both parties are getting what they need out of the deal and staying true to their own brand image.
Jennifer Goodman is a marketing specialist at McKinsey & Company and graduate of Harvard Business School.