Direct marketers who do a lot of testing know for a fact that there’s often a disconnect between what people say they do and what they actually do.
I started noticing this decades ago when I had my first job at a direct response ad agency. Friends would gently berate me for producing junk mail. “Who reads that stuff?” they’d ask. “Mine always goes right in the trash.”
“Do you ever buy any Time Life Books?” I’d answer, referring to the then very popular special interest continuity series sold through direct marketing.
“Oh, that’s different,” they’d answer. “That’s not junk mail.”
Likewise, years later, when I did marketing for the then largest infomercial marketing company, people I met would declare, “Oh, I never watch infomercials.” That was usually followed quickly by a question like, “Did you have anything to do with the Tony Robbins infomercial?” which, more often than not, it turned out they owned.
Because of this common disconnect, I’m concerned about the drumbeat for “Do not mail” legislation. When talking in generalities, people don’t distinguish between advertising mail they don’t want and the catalogs they enjoy and buy from.
While do not mail legislation hasn’t gained widespread traction yet, it’s gaining momentum, as evidenced by the “Do Not Mail” resolution recently passed in San Francisco. The direct marketing community needs to do a much better job of educating the public and addressing their questions about environmentalism.
As direct marketers, we know that people typically don’t receive a lot of catalogs unless they buy from a lot of catalogs. We know that catalog shopping can actually be more energy efficient than shopping in retail stores. We know that there are non-legislative options for reducing or eliminating direct mail for any consumer who so chooses. We need to make sure that our customers know what we know, for all our sakes.