Thursday, March 6, 2008

Will “Do Not Mail” have any takers in India?

Chances are that if years back you purchased a baby product and dropped your contact details with the retailer, even today while your kid might be on his way to collage, you might be still getting glossy baby product catalogs in your mail box. So is that a big problem?

Remember DNC - it is obvious that “DO NOT CALL” registry is not a fad but is here to stay and hence the nail is getting firmer in the coffins of unscrupulous brand owners and their telemarketing agencies that still want to drive their marketing agendas by way of unsolicited calls.

So what’s next; “DO NOT MAIL” is the next big debate raging in the marketing world. Neither is this a fad and nor am I referring to the electronic junk mail.

Advertisement mailing is serious business. It involves people and organizations which are engaged as design agencies, printing and production agencies, database specialists, bulk mailing houses, postal systems and of course the “brand” that would like to use this route of “direct” as a way to reach out to existing and potential customers by way of its shiny product catalog, a brochure or a simple offer letter.

These massive direct marketing exercises result in huge order numbers. In the US within 2007, direct marketing generated a whopping $660 billion worth of business. Some corporations use this as their primary growth & business drivers. There is little wonder therefore that the DMA - the largest body of direct marketers in the world, has been fighting tooth and nail to try and block “Do Not Mail” legislation in the US Senate (while some of the US states have implemented the legislation). While DMA was caught napping on the DNC initiative, this time it is not taking chances and is running a high-profile counter campaign called “Mail Moves America” to highlight the wisdom and importance of direct marketing. The fact is that Advertisement Mailing does work for brands, giving low cost option to reach wider and generate real sales.

However, direct marketing also means that you as a consumer receive a lot of unsolicited mail. What we commonly call “junk mail” is a lot more harmful than merely wasting 5 minutes of your time; it is a colossal waste of the natural resources and has a huge negative impact on the environment. For every 10 tons of high quality brochure-ware produced, it is estimated that 120 established trees are cut and we do send out millions of direct mail pieces every year!

One way for the citizen of the world to reduce his carbon footprint and save some of the trees from being brought down is to opt not to receive these catalogs and mails. That’s what DNM is all about.

Direct marketing agencies and brands have started to be more responsible in their approach by ensuring that they increase the usage of re-cycled paper, better manage the database - not only to cull out duplication and wrong addresses, but also increasingly use intelligent filtering and ageing to better zoom on the target audience. However, increased reliance on electronic format of communication for the business and personal communication has meant that advertising mail is one of the last straws of survival for the powerful postal departments.

While catalog based sales are in their early stages in India, they are bound to grow as the retailer and brand owners use it as an alternative route to reach out to customers rather than only rely on the retail store in an sky-high rental rates scenario, this will further heat up the debate in India as well as this will add on the volumes of DM.

I believe DNM option is here to stay and is a good initiative as it empowers the consumer and ensures that marketers seek permission to market rather than use the mass media approach of flooding the mailbox with paper, however, I also believe that it should be driven by self regulation rather than legislation. Well introduced DNM option will surely ensure that the earth stays green a lot longer. Expect a lot more action on this in the months ahead.

This article was printed in the March 08 issue of Campaign.