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content market: time for direct marketers to catch up

July 15, 2010

Arriving home after work today, I counted no less than 11 pieces of direct mail pieces in my mailbox. That’s 11 pieces of unsolicited printed mail – everything from a Netflix BRC card to a personalized auto insurance letter to a Wachovia line of credit to a J Crew brochure. Wait, a J Crew brochure? Perhaps they figure that I’m in the market for a nice little off-the-shoulder outfit!

Pondering the madness of this intrusive and impersonal sales pitch, I started thinking of all the meetings, phone calls, and emails that would have to have taken place between the client and direct mail agency over such trivialities as font sizes, color schemes, copy revisions, list generation, more copy revisions, suitable calls to action and even more copy revisions – all with the hope of achieving a response rate of less than one percent.

As one by one each piece of literature made its way into the trash, I started trying to figure out how much these direct mail campaigns must cost. A conservative estimate put the Netflix campaign somewhere in the region of $250,000! That’s a cool quarter of a million dollars spent and a few acres of rainforest obliterated in the quest to annoy and frustrate potential customers.

Why, oh why, when there are far more creative, effective and infinitely cheaper methods of communicating with potential customers do companies continue to use this tired and outdated marketing tactic? Alongside TV commercials, newspaper ads and spam emails, direct mail is interruption marketing – diverting the consumer’s attention away from something they were enjoying so that you can try to sell them something.

This form of marketing is over a century old. The marketing world has progressed at the speed of light the past few years.

It’s time for direct marketers to get with the pace.

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