Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Do Not Mail

In a move that may radically change both the direct mail and the printing industries, bills to create “Do Not Mail” laws have been filed in fifteen states. The movement is an extension of the Federal “Do Not Call” concept that pretty much put an end to consumer telemarketing.

One of the key motivators is concern for the environment. We’ve all received a truckload of catalogs and mail solicitations over the past two months, 90% has gone directly into the trash, or at least the recycle bin. According to one source, the U.S. Postal Service last year delivered some 213 billion pieces of mail, and well over half were unsolicited advertisements and bulk mail. Another source notes that every mail carrier in America has carried nearly 18 tons of junk mail this year.

Direct mail, which already has a low response rate, risks alienating customers who actually might want to buy the products the senders promote. As a recent BrandWeek opinion piece (“Really Pushing The Envelope”, 12/10/07) notes: “The fact is, today's green-conscious consumers expect the companies they patronize (and even ones they don't) to engage in some semblance of environmental stewardship. When the marketers of those companies mercilessly clog mailboxes with irrelevant and duplicate solicitations, what kind of message are consumers getting?

It would be ironic if just as the technology for printing mass mailings becomes more affordable and available, key states start making it more difficult than ever to deliver those solicitations. The result has been that even the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), the trade group for junk mail, has been calling for significantly smaller but more finely targeted mailing campaigns to keep the backlash movement that threatens to wipe out all unsolicited mailings.

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