‘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 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

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  • Kevin Nielsen

    Hi Dustin, good column. I’ve long since stopped allowing myself to get exorcised over the junk mail label. Sure it’s an unfair and inaccurate descriptor of the value wrought by our wonderful hard-copy medium.

    Much as we may dislike it, the label has stuck. The term "Junk Mail" is long and well embedded in American colloquial expression. Shrug, smile and continue helping your customers bring it to the bank.

    The Fox News rip was below the belt. In this age would be expect better of broadcast journalism? Nope.

  • Dustin LeFebvre

    Thanks for the reassurance, Kevin. My concern is that the public perception of ‘junk mail’ creates a negative bias that alters the marketing mix away from DM. Many marketers already choose the luster of broadcast advertising over the provable analytics of direct mail. This is the case even as markets are fragmenting and DVRs are fast forwarding.

  • Jim T

    Rename it "Fun Mail" – it’s fun to open because it’s not a bill!!!

  • Mike

    Well they call fatty big meals such as meatloaf and mashed potatoes with gravy comfort food, so we can call this comfort mail.

  • Margo J

    I would much rather sort through marketing mail to determine what is worth saving the having to consistantly delete spam that I NEVER open.

  • Warren Seidel

    I don’t know anyone who catches up with spam mail on Saturday mornings, or who reviews all their missed banner ads at night. Having those #10 stamped envelopes and unusually sized catalogs quietly sit in my mailbox, and patiently wait until I open them, is almost as comfortable as a pair of sheep-skin slippers on a cool February morning. What a contrast to the annoying scrolling banner ad, or the image of the overserved soccer mom beckoning me to save hundreds on my car insurance.

  • Shirley A Burns

    I like the reference to junk food and how it made million$ for its companies… let America grow fat on our "junk" products!