At IWCO Direct, we are very proud of our industry. Recently, a local (Minneapolis) television affiliate ran a report on retailers requesting ZIP codes from customers at the point of sale, suggesting that providing this information may lead to more “junk mail.” As the largest producer of direct mail advertising in the country, we take issue with the media continuing to call our products “junk.” Why is advertising distributed through the mail devalued as “junk” while advertising distributed through other media is not?
If any “J”-word should be applied to direct mail advertising, it’s “jobs.” Did you know the U.S. mailing industry supports 8.4 million jobs (6% of U.S. jobs) and $1.3 trillion in sales revenue (8.6% of U.S. GDP)? That makes our industry about the same size as the airline and oil and natural gas industries. In our home states, the numbers are equally impressive:
- Minnesota – more than 171,000 jobs and $26.2 billion in revenue
- Pennsylvania – more than 338,000 jobs and $55.1 billion in revenue
Yet there remain a number of misconceptions driving the term “junk mail” in the direct mail industry. Here are a few:
- Nobody uses physical mail any more. False. Marketers continue to find mail a valuable part of coordinated cross-channel advertising campaigns. More than 80% of advertising mail is read when it is received, or set aside for later reading. For those consumers who are interested in managing their mail, they are encouraged to use the Direct Marketing Association’s “DMA Choice” online tool.
- Mail isn’t environmentally friendly. False. Paper is a renewable, sustainable resource created from wood fiber grown in responsibly managed forests. In addition, in 2011, more than 64% of the paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling – a rate higher than metal, glass or plastic.
- Mail is the source of identity theft. False. Consumers have greater exposure to identity theft through Internet transactions than misappropriation of mail. The FTC reported that only 4% of victims cited stolen mail as the source of personal information. The Postal Inspection Service is charged with protecting our mail system from criminal misuse and is a leader in the fight against identity theft.
What’s more, it seems digital channels are getting a pass when it comes to sustainability. While consumers look at paper and think about its impact on forests, they tend to ignore the environmental impact of their electronic interactions. Two Sides U.S., an independent, non-profit organization created to promote the responsible production and use of print and paper, reminds us that electronic media use fossil fuels to power servers and intensive energy and material inputs to manufacture electronic devices. Electronics manufacturers also lack convenient and consistent options for safe end-of-life management of these devices.
Consumers (and the media who help inform them) should also keep in mind that although companies often promote electronic communications as a way to “save trees,” the use of responsibly-grown wood fiber encourages forestland owners to maintain forests rather than convert the land to non-forest uses. In fact, paper production can actually encourage larger commercial forests, saving forest land from development.
Marketers are also working with printers and other mailing service providers to ensure environmental best practices are followed throughout the direct mail lifecycle. For example, there are several independent agencies that certify that forests are managed in responsible and sustainable ways.
For instance, IWCO Direct holds Chain-of-Custody certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in all our facilities, helping our customers assure their direct mail recipients that the paper used to create advertising messages was grown and manufactured in environmentally sustainable ways. We participate in the “Recycle Please” programs sponsored by the Envelope Manufacturers Association and the Direct Marketing Association, through which we place recycle logos on all direct mail components encouraging recipients to recycle their mail when they have read and responded to it.
To learn more about the sustainability of paper, check out the information on the Paper because website.
The direct mail industry is both invaluable to our economy and operates with sustainable practices to respect our environment. As marketers, we must be champions of the industry and promote the value and benefits of direct mail to customers, employees and the media alike.
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