The Importance of Being … Enforced

When you’re a marketing organization and being watched is a matter of law, the risks of non-compliance can weigh very heavy when a firm runs afoul and is caught. Few businesses can well afford litigation, fines and bad publicity, plus potential years of consent agreements with all the documentation that may be required. Brand damage.

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When you are being watched, most of us pay a little (or a lot) closer attention to what we’re doing. It’s human nature to be mindful and act accordingly.

When you’re a marketing organization and being watched is a matter of law, the risks of non-compliance can weigh very heavy when a firm runs afoul and is caught. Few businesses can well afford litigation, fines and bad publicity, plus potential years of consent agreements with all the documentation that may be required. Brand damage.

Now let’s turn to self-regulation.

When you’re a marketing organization and being watched is matter of ethics, or of best practices, the risks of non-compliance may be either heavy or light — depending on the compliance question, its marketplace implications and how cooperative the organization is to conform to industry expectations.

Self-regulation, more accurately peer regulation, is usually more preferable than direct government regulation.

For one, in data-driven marketing, innovation is a constant. Disruption is ever-present. Technology keeps changing. How can government regulation even keep up? It rarely does. That’s where self-regulation provides American business a great advantage: rules of the road get set by principle, and the market adapts to those principles.

Then, there’s enforcement of those principles. For example, I work for the Digital Advertising Alliance — a self-regulatory program based on principles for interest-based advertising and multi-site data collection for the desktop world that have been adapted for mobile and cross-device environments. I’m also a member of DMA [Direct Marketing Association], which serves as one accountability partner of DAA (the other being the Council of Better Business Bureaus Advertising Self-Regulatory Commission). These two organizations enforce DAA Principles, each in their own way. However, they are independent from DAA: Those of us who work at DAA are not privy to DMA and ASRC self-regulatory enforcement investigations, until those proceedings are made public.

Earlier this month, the DMA announced its Annual Ethics Compliance Report, which documents how businesses comply with all of DMA’s Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice. [My comments here regard the contents of the overall report, rather than those specific to DAA and interest-based advertising.]

By reading a summation of the 11,300 consumer inquiries from January 2015 to January 2016, one sees an accurate snapshot of what’s on consumers’ minds regarding our business, and how we can better address those concerns to their satisfaction. DMA reported that last year, 90 percent of cases were resolved within 30 days. Thirty-seven emerged as matters referred to the DMA Committee on Ethical Business Practice (also known as Ethics Operating Committee) for further action. Continued non-compliance, or lack of response or cooperation, can lead to a referral to a government agency, if a legal matter may be in question, or if a company may not be following its own disclosures. DMA referred at least four cases to government entities.

Self-regulation without meaningful enforcement may or may not spur ethical or best practices. But add “enforcement with teeth” to self-regulatory codes and educate industry at every turn, and lo and behold, the right result happens. The outcomes serve to protect consumers, and to protect businesses, too — all without government regulation which can prove too restrictive or quickly obsolete.

The Importance of Celebrating Great Advertising

Certainly, we’ve read headlines about ad blockers, agency burnout and click fraud — but these challenges are not the reality of our entire business. Yes, each concern listed here needs to be managed, but they hardly define advertising’s truest landscape.

Echo AwardsOn April 7, there is an agency party happening in New York. Creatives and strategists will be in attendance, but what will the party be celebrating exactly? The simple chance to win an ECHO Award, and the call for entries is now.

Full disclosure — I’m on the Direct Marketing Association’s International ECHO Awards Board of Governors (and the only compensation of being a BOG member is the opportunity to see firsthand the greatest advertising idea store in all of data-driven marketing).

What’s so timely or unusual about celebrating advertising now?

Certainly, we’ve read headlines about ad blockers, agency burnout and click fraud — but these challenges are not the reality of our entire business. Yes, each concern listed here needs to be managed, but they hardly define advertising’s truest landscape:

  • Compelling content that drives consumer interest and engagement — and is increasingly measured to prove it. Data wins the purse and the consumer.
  • An economic contribution that DMA identifies as a $202 billion proposition in the U.S. alone, with more than half of that directly related to responsible collection, sharing and application of data. However, the ECHOs are not all data and numbers – they are informed strategies and executions that are breathtaking, first and foremost. They also drive action.
  • Advertising that wows the CMO, keeps the CFO happy and enables the CEO to look good — because it’s advertising that works to meet defined business objectives.

Very few ad competitions explore this angle, yet, this is where advertising is going and growing. An ECHO trophy proves, “We understand where advertising is going.”

Making waves, disruptive, arresting, dominant — the adjectives fail us, but the work doesn’t. Even the ECHOs are transformative this year with 21 categories to conquer tackling sector, channel, craft and special award categories.

Instead of partying in Manhattan on Thursday night, I will be six miles high eagerly flying home, awaiting this year’s stellar realm of dominant ECHO entries to celebrate this fall. Dominators have until June 27 to enter.

At the Front Door: How First Impressions Serve a Brand

First impressions deliver impact. For nearly 33 years until this week, the Direct Marketing Association demonstratively put its best foot forward through its reception steward Curley Hudson. Whenever a member, prospective member, or guest visited the DMA office in Midtown NYC, Curley was there to greet them …

Curley Hudson at DMA 1983-2015.
Curley Hudson, DMA’s smiling reception steward, 1983 to 2015.

First impressions deliver impact. For nearly 33 years until this week, the Direct Marketing Association demonstratively put its best foot forward through its reception steward Curley Hudson.

Whenever a member, prospective member, or guest visited the DMA office in Midtown NYC, Curley was there to greet them. Whenever a phone call was connected to a live voice off the general number, it was usually Curley with whom the caller spoke. And many, many times, Curley was one masterful ambassador when a consumer called with a concern: oftentimes, Curley transformed hostility — about “junk mail,” “annoying phone calls” and “spam” — to empowerment, hopefulness and even tranquility. (I’m sure there were some incurable complainers amid the mix.)

Year in, year out. Dozens of visitors per day — and dozens more by telephone.

DMA also made sure Curley staffed the desk at conference headquarters at the association’s annual event, bringing that same can-do attitude to all types of on-site problem-solving — making connections happen for the betterment of all.

Practically everyone in our field knows Curley, or at least knows Curley’s voice, and the adjectives we use to describe her are truly ones we value: optimistic, patient, understanding, resourceful … an embodiment of the power of positive thinking.

That’s why DMA and direct marketing have been honored to have Curley on our team. She is what some might call a brand asset. But for many of us, she is a loving friend, and a steady face among constant change.

In the early 90s, during the heyday of the Total Quality Management and prior to email, my employer (DMA) gave us mirrors to place by our telephones. We taped the word “opportunity” to the handset. The goal was to remind ourselves to smile when answering the phone – because that smile is conveyed in our tone and in perception on the other end of the line. In every 1:1 connection there is indeed an opportunity, for selling, for service, for solutions, whatever we are charged with. But I already had that lesson in just watching and listening to Curley go about her work.

Now we’ve evolved — for better or worse — to chat rooms, instant messaging and emails — and less so by mail, phone and in-person visits. I regret some of this. Perhaps it’s harder to project such positivity as Curley’s in our world of digital communication — but any brand should teach all its front-line ambassadors to bring forward that happy confidence, empathy and “how-can-I-make-your-day-better” attitude in customer, prospect, member and donor communication.

It worked for DMA — for 33 years. Curley, I am going to miss you, and I celebrate you as our industry colleague. I’m certain I’m not alone. In fact, thousands of times over.

Colleges and Universities: We Need More Focus on Marketing Metrics

First a brag: My Temple University advertising students won the Gold Collegiate ECHO — earning First Place out of 200 teams from over 30 colleges and universities. The challenge was to increase referrals for DirecTV among the existing subscriber base.

First a brag: My Temple University advertising students won the Gold Collegiate ECHO — earning First Place out of 200 teams from over 30 colleges and universities. The challenge was to increase referrals for DirecTV among the existing subscriber base.

The most telling comments from DirecTV on the winning entry:

  • “… clear understanding of the way campaigns should be analyzed, from not only response rates but offer costs and CPAs”
  • “One of the few undergrad teams with strong principles of Direct Response Marketing”

Today’s advertising and marketing students are digital natives. And while they intuitively understand digital marketing, and are even schooled in its mechanics, most don’t understand the basic metrics of acquisition cost and lifetime customer value, the key components of ROI. The Internet is a direct response medium — consumers buy things there. And with increasing proportions of marketing budgets being spent online, it’s important that colleges and universities prepare students to understand how to optimize online marketing.

According to a 2014 Gartner survey, “Digital marketing spending averaged one-quarter of the marketing budget in 2014.” Survey respondents were 315 individuals located in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. who represent organizations with more than $500 million in annual revenue across six industries: financial services, high-tech, manufacturing, media, retail and transportation, and hospitality. The survey found that “of the 51 percent of companies who plan to increase their digital marketing budget in 2015, the average increase will be 17 percent.”

But most undergraduate advertising programs focus more on traditional awareness advertising rather than response-driven advertising and the metrics that make it work. As a result, advertising students graduate without a knowledge of the key tools that will help them succeed in the in the digital marketing world.

The most gratifying part of participating in the Collegiate ECHO competition for me was seeing the students embrace direct marketing principles, like test design and acquisition cost: concepts that aren’t normally covered in traditional advertising programs. That’s one of the great things about the Collegiate ECHO competition; it provides the opportunity for students to learn these principles and apply them to a real client. By sponsoring this competition, MarketingEDGE is helping to promote education in the basic principles of direct, digital and relationship marketing — principles that will prepare students for success.

Finally, a shout-out to the winning Temple team: Bridget Doyle, Tatiana Drye, Kaitlin O’Connell and Kia Street. It was an honor for me to work with such a talented group of students. They earned the Gold with their dedication, hard work and persistence.

Truly Greening Digital: The DMA ‘Green 15’ Gain a Digital Edge

With little fanfare, the Direct Marketing Association just published a “refresh” of its “Green 15” sustainable marketing practices first announced in 2007, via the good work of the sustainability team from the DMA Ethics Policy Committee.

With little fanfare, the Direct Marketing Association just published a “refresh” of its “Green 15” sustainable marketing practices first announced in 2007. Via the good work of the sustainability team from the DMA Ethics Policy Committee: Green 15 Best Practices.

The original publication took on such areas as paper procurement and list management, among others, in a bid for the marketing field to reduce GHG emissions by 1 million metric tons through last year. Whether or not that goal was achieved has not been reported by DMA, but then again, there is likelihood of huge reductions in carbon emissions if only for the fact that that there is less mail in circulation today then in 2006 (source reduction).

Yet in the growth of digital, there are also greenhouse gas impacts, among other environmental concerns, says DMA:

The use of certified paper, renewable energy, and consumer messaging to encourage recycling are all well-established best practices that address tangible environmental issues associated with print communications. Today, the rise of data-driven and digital communication requires marketers to address less visible environmental impacts. Toxic ‘e-waste’ impacts people and the environment as a result of improper disposal of electronics. Air pollution, including elevated greenhouse gas emissions, is an environmental and economic consequence of the growing demand for fossil energy to power digital devices and data centers.

The new Green 15 gives some guidance on just what digital and data-driven marketers might look to do:

  • Conduct energy audits at offices and production facilities to identify cost-saving opportunities (energy reduction).
  • Determine the source of power facilities in your facilities, and look to purchase more renewables in the mix gradually. Leverage suppliers of digital and data services to do the same.
  • Use links instead of attachments when sending internal and external communications – minimizing bandwidth and storage space for such documents.
  • Immediately implement best practices for responsible disposal of all electronic equipment at end of life, using such resources as Earth911.com, the EPA’s Web site, and seeking recyclers who adhere to E-Stewards Certificate standards

As anyone on a corporate “Green Team” knows, this list is really just a beginning. The savings and gains in efficiency that can happen as a result, are real—and ripe—for business bottom lines. There’s no reason not to consider these steps. All it takes is an internal champion, and a belief that being digital alone is not being green. Data and interactive communication have to be managed from a sustainability point of view—just as print communicators have done. I am glad the DMA, for one, has taken the lead and given us constructive steps all integrated marketers should consider.

To Honor Jerry Cerasale and the Contributions He Has Made for Us

Next month will mark a new beginning for Jerry Cerasale, a man whose countless contributions to marketers over the past four decades have served us immensely. After a career of public service and advocacy on behalf of direct marketing, Jerry is about to start a next chapter—more time with his family endeavors on his schedule, not those of Congress, the U.S. Postal Service or the Direct Marketing Association and coalitions in which he has represented us so brilliantly

Next month will mark a new beginning for Jerry Cerasale, a man whose countless contributions to marketers over the past four decades have served us immensely. After a career of public service and advocacy on behalf of direct marketing, Jerry is about to start a next chapter—more time with his family endeavors on his schedule, not those of Congress, the U.S. Postal Service or the Direct Marketing Association and coalitions in which he has represented us so brilliantly.

For those of us who know Jerry, we know this moment is sweet. He is a gentleman who always seems to know the score on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. Though it may be impossible to know outcomes on public policy debates with any certainty, since his joining the Direct Marketing Association’s government affairs team, we’ve had someone who is able to shape that policy or influence it in a manner that has advanced our professional practice—and to do so with fairness, clarity and a knack for building consensus. In each occasion, importantly, Jerry has also articulated how marketing ultimately serves the needs of customers and consumers, and a well-functioning, competitive and innovative marketplace. All the time, he’s engaged DMA members—and given us opportunities to participate in the lawmaking and policymaking process as citizens and as members of our business community.

Jerry first joined DMA in 1995 as senior vice president, government affairs, and had led the charge of DMA’s contact with the Congress, all federal agencies and state and local governments. There has not been a single issue – postal, privacy, the environment, use taxes, telemarketing, data security, commercial free speech, sweepstakes—where his advice and counsel has not been spot on. Not only has he been our voice before Committees of Congress, he has testified before both the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission on these and other direct marketing matters. We may not win every marketing battle, but Jerry always builds good will, because of his demeanor and respectfulness.

Prior to joining DMA, Jerry was an effective public servant—where he was the deputy general counsel for the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, United States House of Representatives. He also served for 12 years at the Postal Rate Commission as legal advisor to Chairman Janet Steiger, and also as special assistant to the Commission. He was an attorney advisor to Federal Trade Commission Chairman Steiger in her service there. Prior to the PRC, he was employed in the law department of the Postal Service. Jerry also is a veteran of the U.S. Army, where he served our country from 1970 to 1972. He is a graduate from Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT) and earned a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. He is the recipient of the Silver Apple and the Mal Dunn Leadership Award from the New York Direct Marketing Club and a lifetime achievement award from the Continuity Shippers Association—accolades that are prestigious, but only begin to tell the tale of Jerry’s stewardship in our field.

But what I love most about Jerry is his loyalty to wearing “Save the Children” ties as he goes about his professional work—because social responsibility always seems to be part of who he is—and always will be, no matter what his schedule. For that I am truly grateful, “Thank you, Jerry” from all of us.

Irrational Customers and 2013’s Tip Top Marketing Campaign

Exhale, just landed from a jam-packed Direct Marketing Association DMA13 conference … You have to hand it to New Zealanders. For two years’ running, that nation’s marketing practitioners have nailed a Diamond ECHO from the Direct Marketing Association’s International ECHO Awards, which were presented last week during DMA13, the association’s annual conference in Chicago.

Exhale, just landed from a jam-packed Direct Marketing Association DMA13 conference

New Zealanders are Diamond
You have to hand it to New Zealanders. For two years’ running, that nation’s marketing practitioners have nailed a Diamond ECHO from the Direct Marketing Association’s International ECHO Awards, which were presented last week during DMA13, the association’s annual conference in Chicago.

This year’s top data-driven marketing campaign in the world was for ice cream maker Tip Top (Fonterra Brands Ltd), in a campaign created by Colenso BBDO/Proximity New Zealand called “Feel Tip Top.” According to the ECHO Award entry:

A 75-year-old local ice cream brand in New Zealand aimed to regain relevance and brand momentum using customer experience. New Zealanders flocked to Facebook for the opportunity to nominate friends, family members or colleagues to receive a personally addressed, hand-delivered ice cream. By encouraging folks to ‘feel tip-top’ and indulge in a sweet treat and fond memory with friends, Tip Top highlighted new flavors and sub-brands, exceeded its nomination goal by more than fifteen-fold, and turned around a 17.6 percent decline into 16.7 percent growth across all categories.

I guess I ought to “like” Tip Top on Facebook.

Solidifying DMA’s Books
During the Annual Business Meeting of the association, it was announced that DMA has streamlined and simplified its annual dues structure into six tiers—from less than $800 on the low end (startups, consultants and the like) up to $75,000 for US and global direct marketing leaders. DMA generated $22.5 million in revenue last year, compared to $20.7 million in expenses.

While at the Annual Business Meeting, President & CEO Linda Woolley spoke to the recently approved Strategic Plan of the association, where she reported advocacy, networking and compliance services are the three areas of focus for association activity in the year ahead. DMA recently (in late May) launched a DMA Litigation Center, which will look to help businesses cope with privacy litigation, and to fight patent abuse, among other legal issues. Outgoing DMA Chairman Matt Blumberg, CEO & chairman of ReturnPath, also announced that the new DMA Chairman for 2013-2015 (a two-year term) is Alliant President & CEO JoAnne Monfradi Dunn (congratulations to my client), who told members she plans to serve as an ambassador between DMA’s management and its members.

(Ir)rational Consumers
Dan Ariely, in a keynote session sponsored by The Wilde Agency, gave case after case where consumers were seen to act irrationally, and that marketers can influence outcomes (and response) markedly by designing and testing creative offers and incentives. One of my favorites was the offer by The Economist (I’m an avid reader) where potential subscribers were offered $125 for the print magazine, and $59 for an online-only magazine, and the online-only offer won. But when a third option was added—$125 for both the print & online magazine—that option was the clear winner.

When an insurance company wanted to sell life insurance policies, and try to convince persons to upgrade, it tried repeatedly to sell in copy the benefits of more coverage—but with little access. When it decided to include a chart that clearly showed the higher amounts of coverage available—that the consumer was foregoing at his or her existing amount of coverage—well, it resulted in a 500 percent lift. My takeaways: always test, find a clever way to visualize data and offers, and always expect the irrational as much as the rational. “Standards Economics are not the same as Behavioral Economics,” he said. Indeed.

Well, that was just from two page of notes from the conference—I’m still dissecting a dozen more sessions. I have to say, this was the first conference in many years where I was accompanied by a “newbie,” a practitioner on the brand side making her first DMA appearance. She had a lot to complain about—there were way too many great sessions on offer at the same time, and we tag-teamed a bit to cover them simultaneously where we could. I think next year, she’ll be bringing some of her colleagues.

Mark your calendar for San Diego for the last week of October 2014.

Creeping Up Fast: DMA13 and Making Plans for Chicago

August 6 marked the mid-point of summer—so now we’re closer to summer’s end than summer’s beginning. It’s as if all the back-to-school advertising wasn’t enough to have us looking forward (except perhaps for schoolchildren). In the world of data-driven marketing, my mailbox reminded me this past week, too, that fall is just around the corner: I received a DMA2013 conference brochure mailer

The other day (August 6) marked the mid-point of summer—so now we’re closer to summer’s end than summer’s beginning.

It’s as if all the back-to-school advertising wasn’t enough to have us looking forward (except perhaps for schoolchildren). In the world of data-driven marketing, my mailbox reminded me this past week, too, that fall is just around the corner: I received a DMA2013 conference brochure mailer (October 12-17, McCormick Place West, Chicago). We’re eight weeks out from DMA2013, which means it’s time to start getting very serious, rather than spontaneous, in making our must-attend conference experience the best it can be. (Yes, I’m already registered—and you should be, too.)

For me, this is when I review the print brochure to dog-ear my go-to sessions based on the session titles, speakers and descriptions, and start the online process at MyDMA2013 (by Vivastream) to pinpoint an attempt at an “aspirational” schedule. I call this aspirational—let’s face it, when we get on site, business conversations inevitably happen, and diversions of all kinds are bound to take place.

However, there are some absolutes in my DMA13 calendar—and I’m hopeful you’ll agree.

1. Give Back
The first item isn’t even about DMA. It’s Marketing EDGE (formerly Direct Marketing Educational Foundation) and its Annual Awards Dinner (separate ticket required). This event has always been a go-to, but it’s also evolved to become the first, best networking opportunity for all of us as we gather at the DMA conference each year. These are the VIPs, roughly 400 leaders and future leaders in our business, and here is an organization where our proceeds bring the best and brightest into our field. What a powerful combination, and an affirmation of the future of data-driven, integrated marketing. Even if you don’t attend the conference, you can sponsor a professor’s attendance and make a donation at the aforementioned link.

2. What’s Next?
On Wednesday, Oct. 16, the day after the exhibit hall closes—I tell my clients that’s when the real learning begins. What do I mean by that somewhat on-its-face silly statement? That’s when the conference attendees—folks who are real serious about learning—are in the session rooms early, taking notes, and becoming better marketing professionals during the last half-day of sessions, and the post-conference workshops and day-and-a-half certifications. On that final day of the main conference, DMA13’s Main Conference Keynote panel at 11 am (all times Central), will feature “What’s NeXt: A Look through the Lens” with Direct Marketing Hall of Famer Rance Crain of Advertising Age interviewing BlueKai and foursquare execs Omar Tawakol and Steven Rosenblatt.

3. Stand Up
I’m a member of DMA for many reasons—but certainly advocacy is one of them. A lot of my clients literally are focused day-to-day on campaign development and implementation in an omnichannel world, and often don’t dwell on the policy implications that affect it. DMA13 offers marketing execs a chance to listen in, catch up and make sure that policy—legal, ethical, best practice—is aligned with our strategy and execution, and that innovation is fostered across all media channels that customers use. Hence, I will be attending DMA President & CEO Linda Woolley’s address “Listen to the Data” (Monday, Oct. 14, 8:45 a.m.) and Spotlight Session on Privacy: “Top 5 Privacy Issues … Revealed” moderated by Ginger Conlon, editor-in-chief of DMNews, with panelists from DMA (Jerry Cerasale), Eloqua (Dennis Dayman) and LoyaltyOne (Bryan Pearson). Responsible data collection and use is clearly under threat from Washington and elsewhere—we need to stand up for ourselves.

4. Inspired and a Party, Too
What’s the best proof point about data-driven marketing’s success—worldwide? If I had the chance to grab a policymaker and make them sit down and see what data-driven marketing can do—I would make him or her attend what I’m hopeful all DMA2013 delegates will attend: the 2013 DMA International ECHO Awards Gala, “Data-Driven Marketing’s Most Important Night” (separate registration required—and well worth it, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 6:30 pm to whenever). I’ve seen a sneak peak of what’s in store for this year’s gala, and this will be not only a Chicago-size party, with a DJ and Comedian Jake Johansen as host, but also truly a celebration of courageous brands, innovative agencies and the marketing strategies, creative executions and outstanding results that leave me—and many others—inspired. Left-brain, data-driven marketing combined with right-brain creative genius—what a combination for brands in both consumer and business-to-business marketing.

That’s enough for now—with more to come. Feel free to post your DMA13 “would be” favorites for blog readers below … and by all means, get yourself and your colleagues registered if you haven’t already. Get a game plan together, the conference is coming fast!

Direct Mail Benchmarks From DMA

In my years following the direct marketing field, one of the resources I’ve most appreciated is the Direct Marketing Association’s annual roundup of direct and interactive marketing statistics, the DMA Statistical Fact Book. Each year, this compilation of research studies—this year, 40 prominent sources—offers benchmarks and other metrics related to nearly a dozen categories. Examining direct mail-related data, here are a few stats from this year’s edition that jump out at me. Did you know

In my years following the direct marketing field, one of the resources I’ve most appreciated is the Direct Marketing Association’s annual roundup of direct and interactive marketing statistics, the DMA Statistical Fact Book. Each year, this compilation of research studies—this year, 40 prominent sources—offers benchmarks and other metrics related to nearly a dozen categories: Internet, mobile marketing, social media, catalog, consumer demographics, direct mail, direct marketing overview, email, nonprofit and USPS information.

Examining direct mail-related data, here are a few stats from this year’s edition that jump out at me. Did you know:

  1. The mean cost per order or lead for a letter-sized direct mail piece sent to a house file is $19.35, and the same sent to a prospect or total file is $51.30. —”DMA Response Rate Report,” 2012.
  2. More than 12.5 million consumers purchased prescription drugs via a mail or phone order. —Experian Simmons “National Consumer Study,” 2012.
  3. In the food category, 16.8 percent of coupons redeemed originated from the Internet, home-printed; another 6.6 percent originated from direct mail. —Valassis/NCH Marketing Services, “Coupon Facts Reports,” 2013.
  4. The salary range of marketing analytics directors with 7+ years’ experience was $119,300 to $131,500. —Crandall Associates, 2012.
  5. 54.5 percent of U.S. Households read, looked at, or set aside for later reading, their letter-sized enveloped direct mail pieces in 2011. For larger than letter-size envelope mail, 67.2 percent did the same. —USPS “Household Diary Study,” 2012.
  6. Mail order companies have the highest percentage of pieces addressed to specific household members—97.1 percent of their direct mail, while Restaurants have the least—16.2 percent. —USPS “Household Diary Study,” 2012.
  7. The response rate for credit card mailings in 2012 was 0.6 percent—down from 2.2 percent in 1993, but up from 0.3 percent in 2005. —Ipsos/Synovate Mail Monitor, 2012.
  8. In 2012, 54.2 percent of total value of U.S. Mail is attributable to direct mail advertising across all classes. —DMA/USPS “Revenue, Pieces and Weight by Class of Mail and Special Services,” 1990-2012.
  9. In the U.S., direct mail marketing spend held steady at $45.2 billion between 2011 and 2012. It stood at $43.8 billion in 2009. —Winterberry Group, 2013.
  10. After peaking at 19.6 billion catalogs mailed (in the U.S.) in 2007, only 11.8 billion catalogs were mailed in 2012. —DMA/USPS “Revenue, Pieces and Weight by Class of Mail and Special Services,” 2012.
  11. Of 11,743 catalogs in the U.S., 94.1 percent of catalogs have an online version—MediaFinder.com, “National Directory of Catalogs,” 2012.

No wonder the 200-page DMA Statistical Fact Book is—year to year—among DMA’s best sellers in its bookstore. It’s available for purchase via DMA’s online bookstore. The cost is $249 for DMA members and $499 for non-members: https://imis.the-dma.org/bookstore/ProductSingle.cfm?p=0D45047B|4DA56D9737FF45DF90CA1DA713E16B80

Happy reading!

Inside the Recycling Tub: Catalogs & Direct Mail, Post-Consumer

The year was 1990. Earth Day turned 20 years old. The darling book that year was 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth. Its author’s top recommendation was “Stop Junk Mail.” The book was a “cultural phenomena,” as one reviewer recalled, selling more than 5 million copies in all.

The year was 1990. Earth Day turned 20 years old. The darling book that year was 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth. Its author’s top recommendation was “Stop Junk Mail.” The book was a “cultural phenomena,” as one reviewer recalled, selling more than 5 million copies in all.

During the early 1990s, millions of consumers wrote their request to the then-Mail Preference Service (MPS, now DMAchoice) to remove themselves from national mailing lists, partially as a result of the media hype around that publication and its recommendation to consumers to sign up for MPS. Even some cities and towns urged their citizens (with taxpayer money) to get off mailing lists. I don’t think the Direct Marketing Association released publicly its MPS consumer registration figures, but it swelled to the point where some saturation mailers nearly considered not using the file for fear it would disqualify them for the lowest postage within certain ZIP Codes where new MPS registrants were concentrated. (DMA developed a saturation mailer format at the time to preserve MPS utility.)

Removing names from a mailing list is what solid waste management professionals call “source reduction”—an act that prevents the production of mail (and later waste) in the first place.

One of the reasons “junk mail” met with some consumer hostility then was simply because once you were done with a catalog or mail piece, wanted or not, there was no place to put it except in the trash. It seemed to many, “All this waste!” (that actually amounted to about 2.3 percent of the municipal solid waste stream back then).

Thankfully, there were other marketplace and public policy dynamics tied to support of the green movement, circa 1990. In a word, “recycling” (like source reduction) was seen as a part of responsible solid waste management. At the time, North American paper mills were scrambling to get recovered fiber to manufacture paper products and packaging with recycled content. Some states (and the federal government) set minimum recycled-content and “post-consumer” recycled-content percentage requirements for the paper they procured, while California mandated diversion goals for solid waste from its landfills. Increasingly, foreign trading partners were clamoring for America’s discarded paper to meet their ravenous demands for fiber. The cumulative results were an aggressive increase in the amount of paper collected for recycling and the number of collection points across the United States.

All this boded well for catalogs and direct mail, as far as their collection rates. Catalogs and magazines are considered equivalent when it comes to their fiber makeup. They do tend to have more hardwood (short, thinner fibers) versus softwood (long, strong fibers) since the hardwood gives a nice, smooth printing surface. When they are collected for recycling, recovered catalogs and magazines are suitable for lower quality paper/packaging grades, as well as for tissue. Some of the fiber does wind up getting used as post-consumer waste in new magazines and catalogs, but producers of such papers much prefer having recovered office paper (ideally not mixed with other lower-quality post-consumer papers) as their source of post-consumer content, as the quality is better for making higher quality magazine/catalog papers. (See link below from Verso Paper.)

Most direct mail when recovered is classified as mixed papers, and is suitable for tissue, packaging and other recovered-fiber products. (Today, a lot of paper recovery mixes it all together, and with positive reuse.) By 2007, DMA had received permission from the Federal Trade Commission to begin allowing mailers to place “recyclable” messages and seals on catalogs and mail pieces (roughly 60 percent of U.S. households must have access to local recycling options before “recyclable” labels can be used). Upon this FTC opinion, DMA promptly launched its “Recycle Please” logo program. By 2010, in addition, thousands of U.S. post offices were placing “Read-Respond-Recycle” collection bins for mixed paper in their lobbies.

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began tracking “Standard Mail” in its biennial Municipal Solid Waste Characterization Report in 1990, the recovery rate (through recycling collection) was near 5 percent. By 2009 (the most current year reported), the recovery rate had increased more than 10-fold to 63 percent—but I cite this figure with a big asterisk. There will be a discussion in a future post on why the EPA MSW recycling data may not be as accurate (and as optimistic) as these findings seem to present. In fact, the EPA itself has asked for public comment on how its current MSW study methodology can be improved—again, more on that in another post.

While I’m not an expert on solid waste reporting, I certainly can see the positive direction underway here, no matter what the actual recovery rate may be. The more catalogs and direct mail that are recovered for their fiber, chances are that there will be more efficient use of that fiber in the supply chain, rather than ending up in a landfill. That helps relieve pressure on paper and packaging pricing, which is good for our bottom lines.

It might also, just a little bit, make a consumer think to herself “I love my junk mail”—as she takes the no-longer-needed mail at week’s or season’s end and places it into a recycling tub. Recycling makes us feel good. It is simple to do. Recycling may not truly save the Earth, but it certainly does extend the life of an importantly renewable natural resource, wood fiber.

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