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EVP, Marketing at Specialty Print Communications

Against the Grain

By Dustin LeFebvre

About Dustin

A third-generation printer, Dustin LeFebvre delivers his vision for Specialty Print Communications as EVP, Marketing through strategy, planning and new product development. With a rich background ranging from sales and marketing to operations, quality control and procurement, Dustin takes a wide-angle approach to SPC


‘Junk Mail’ Is Call to Arms

We’ve all heard the reference; some marketers have even made it themselves. “Junk mail” carries an obvious negative connotation and generates almost universal scorn. Case in point—recently, SPC was featured on Fox Business News to explain how all the direct mail gets produced for the retail holiday season.

But instead of it being a feel-good piece about the growth of American manufacturing and business vitality, the segment’s anchors cracked incessant jokes about junk mail, and the producer threw a giant banner across the bottom of the screen, reading “SPC: Junk Mail Source.”

Junk mail source!

Excuse me as I take a moment to get over that sucker punch to the gut. I was beyond upset. I was livid, but I took a deep breath and started to question how we all got here.

The USPS tells us that 56 percent of people consider opening the mail to be a “real pleasure,” so why is everyone calling it “junk?”

Perhaps part of this is psychological...heck, part of it must be. I can think of a lot of things that people consider a real pleasure, but also label as junk. My wife enjoys some of these things. Examples include bad television, “chick lit,” and more bad television.

Twinkies and Pringles rode to glory despite being labeled “junk” food, generating millions—if not billions—of dollars for their brand owners. Maybe instead of direct mail or junk mail, we should simply call it a guilty pleasure. I’m open to feedback. What would you call it?

It’s commonplace for consumers to oversimplify the matter and categorize all mail as “junk.” The “Do not call list” made lives better, and “Do not mail” sounds really similar. Why wouldn’t the benefits of such a list also fall in line?

I believe we, as marketers, are partly to blame. The lack of creativity and strategy when it comes to many direct mail campaigns is disheartening. With the technology available to us today, there’s no excuse for generating mundane, dull mail pieces that don’t bust through the clutter to entice consumers, educate them or drive them to act.

A recent Epsilon study found that 60 percent of people enjoy checking the mail box for postal mail. We should be growing that number, making the experience even more pleasant!

Collectively, as an industry, we’ve allowed the bar to be lowered and almost invited consumers to discard our content without a second thought. Why should we let low response rates be the norm? Let’s invest in a little inventiveness, taking a junk-yard-dog approach to rooting out true junk mail!

Let’s start with our data. Let’s make sure we’re building strongly predictive models to target the right people, verifying addresses, and recovering good records. Heck, let’s even remove the deceased from our lists.

Hats off to a company called If you Google “Do Not Mail,” it’ll pop up at the top of the page. Why is a direct mail company showing up in those search results? Because the company realizes that sending mail to recipients who don’t want it and won’t respond is simply bad business.

Eliminating the phrase “junk mail” from the American vernacular can be done, and for anyone who is passionate about the direct marketing craft, the process will be enjoyable. It will involve being imaginative, pushing the envelope (pun intended) and avoiding complacency.

It can be done by constantly testing and evaluating our efforts to determine if we’re delivering the best possible results for our clients and the equity of direct mail. Let’s honor our trade and do our part to redefine the channel.

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