Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Mailing Maelstrom

Junk mail is everywhere, attacking your mailbox like a tempest. About 44% of it is thrown back without reading, and after it's read, there's a 95% chance you'll throw it into the Neverending Pit of Garbage. You can fight it and sign up for "do-not-mail" lists, but most likely, the sea of mail will keep surging.

Why not invite them onto your boat by encouraging them to use other means of communication? Like e-mails you receive with an "unsubscribe" option, businesses could include an "unsubscribe" envelope -- guaranteeing no more mail from them if you send it back. Using this, they could reach their target audience better. (Hopefully they have one.)

If junk mail was reduced, it would leave a much smaller carbon footprint. "The average American household receives unsolicited junk mail equal to 1.5 trees every year—more than 100 million trees for all U.S. households combined" (About.com). And that's what this is all about, right? As much as we would like to think businesses care more about Mother Earth's green than your green, it's usually quite the opposite.

Targeting the right audience is a major dilemma for companies.

This week, I received an invitation to a retirement planning seminar. A complimentary meal for myself and three adults is included. There is no mention of anything free in the letter, besides the toll free number I am supposed to call for reservations. But I am not retiring anytime soon. I'm still in college, as a matter of fact. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2000, 14.3% of citizens in the city I reside in are 65 years and older. This makes me curious as to how many young people like myself received this letter. It's only one piece of paper, an envelope and a stamp. But it costs them more money than they should be spending. They're spending it in the wrong place. If I went to the lunch or dinner seminar with three guests who are not close to the age of retirement, that company is losing four possible clients and an innumerable amount of money.

But there can be a calm in the storm. Procter & Gamble's Gillette does it right. Soon after I turned 18, I got a free Mach3 razor. After my sister turned 18, she got a free Venus razor. We use the product and become familiar with the brand we become dependent on -- for our hygienic and cosmetic needs. When corporations, small businesses and the like spend money on targeting the right audience, there's more chance the consumer will develop a relationship with their brand, which is much more valuable than a "catch of the day" to the business.

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