Locking them in forever

Andrew Ehrenberg casts a jaundiced but informed eye over some of the claims for direct marketing exemplified by Nestl's ambitions for its Buitoni brand

Andrew S C Ehrenberg

Direct marketing is a growth activity and is rapidly gaining respectability among clients and agencies. Its current popularity is due, we are told, to companies being increasingly preoccupied with 'getting close to the customer'.

A well-publicised case has been Nestl's plan for Buitoni announced last year (Marketing November 26 1992). In a radical move designed to "side-step the power of both media owners and retailers", the world's biggest food company (25 billion) "plans to build a global brand on the foundations of a one-to-one relationship with its customers".