By Daniel Hoffman

I can’t imagine a less auspicious arrival than the one I made in Austin, Texas, for the recent MediaPost Brand Insider Summit. I was fried, having come directly from the Shoptalk retail conference in Las Vegas. Well, no, not directly. That would have been too easy. I had to change planes in Phoenix. After getting up at 4:00 a.m. After spending two intense days navigating Shoptalk’s record crowd, which approached 9,000 people. By the time I reached the Driskill Ballroom in Austin, I felt like I had left my sanity on the plane, stuffed between the safety instructions and the inflight magazine.

All of which, it turned out, allowed me to fully appreciate just how perfectly the intimate atmosphere at the MediaPost Brand Insider Summit dovetailed with PebblePost’s approach to marketing in the digital age.

It felt, in a word, homey.

Let’s Talk Shoptalk for a Minute

First, I want to be clear that I’m not disparaging Shoptalk. Since its inaugural event, Shoptalk has rightly earned its share of kudos and has almost tripled in size. And if you’re looking for a broad sense of the direction the industry is headed, Shoptalk provides it.

But frankly, the event’s sheer size makes it overwhelming at a one-to-one level. You can’t connect with 9,000 people in a couple of days. The math just doesn’t work.

Beyond that, the tenor has changed. As Forbes noted, “In prior years, direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands held the spotlight.” But in 2019 “legacy brands [took] the stage in increasing numbers.”

Why? Because, as Forbes further noted, “As DTC brands open stores at a rapid clip, even these one-time disruptors are beginning to behave more like legacy retailers.”

That’s fine. It’s inevitable, in fact, and it’s in line with PebblePost’s overall mission. Still, in the DTC rush to physical retail, “There’s a bus stop missed,” our Founder and Chief Stamp Licker, Lewis Gersh, noted. “And that’s going into home.”

Lewis made that crucial point not at Shoptalk, but to an exclusive audience of DTC brands and vendors during a breakfast presentation at the MediaPost Brand Insider Summit.

This is Where We Get Off

Our Programmatic Direct Mail® solution adds that bus stop along the digital-to-physical-retail journey, helping to get brand messages in-hand, at home. That was Lewis’s basic message in Austin, supported by our new research.

His message, in turn, found a receptive audience of eager DTC brands. And I’m not just blowing smoke when I say “receptive” and “eager.” You could tell brands were engaged by their on-point responses when Lewis opened the floor to questions.

The first was from Brant Schmitz, Director of Performance Marketing at Blu Dot, who quizzed Lewis on the basic parameters of Programmatic Direct Mail. Next up was Gihan Amarasiriwardena, Co-founder and President at Ministry of Supply, who asked, “Do you find that it’s most effective for customer retention or acquisition?”

Lewis: “Both, to be honest.” (This explains why.)

You get the idea. The DTC audience at the MediaPost Brand Insider Summit got it.

Getting Better Acquainted

I enjoyed my follow-up conversations with Brant and Gihan, among other brand reps. Our talks were stimulating but also kind of humbling. Gihan is an absolute genius. He’s an MIT grad with a dev background and a deep technical understanding of how DTC works, but he’s also very business-savvy. He wants to get more intelligent about his customer segmentation.

Brant was also incredibly aware of the many ways that PebblePost would help his furniture business. And like Gihan, he was looking for an efficient, evergreen strategy that would empower a small, agile team as it implements his specific business model.

In other words, both spoke our language. That's because DTC brands are particularly open to learning about what’s out there, to hearing new ideas, to trying new things. They want to build off of these ideas together. It’s a tight-knit community in which people want to help each other out, in a spirit of mutual respect — something that really resonates with us.

Until We Meet Again

One more thing you should know about the MediaPost Brand Insider Summit: It was straight-up fun. It was great to hang out after hours and have so many casual conversations that enabled me to connect a human face to each brand. On Tuesday we went axe throwing, for instance. It was a terrific way to break the ice. (Ice wasn’t the only thing that got broken.)

But what do you expect when you turn a bunch of jet-lagged marketing professionals loose with axes?) We also had a great Italian dinner as a group, with all of us relaxing over a glass of wine. The next night we got a little bit more of a local flavor with some good ol’ Austin barbecue.

That downtime at night was just as important as the highly-concentrated content we absorbed during the day. In connecting with DTC brands and vendors in a relaxed, intimate setting — in taking the time to get to know them as people, not just as targets — PebblePost was able to both preach what we practice and practice what we preach.

Daniel Hoffman is the North American Team Lead, Sales Director at PebblePost. After his recent sojourn he joined a jet lag recovery support group.

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