Can’t See the Forest for the Trees

Highlights

If you regularly find your mailbox crammed with catalogs, coupons and credit card offers, it is understandable that you might think direct mail is stripping our forests bare. Understandable, but incorrect. In fact, according to http://www.abundantforests.org, there are 12 million more acres of forest in the United States than there were 22 years ago, and the paper industry’s efforts are partly responsible for the growth.

There are 1.7 million trees planted every day in the United States.  That’s more than are cut down for commercial purposes. In fact, more trees are lost to disease, bugs and fire than are felled for consumer products in this country. So all of those unsolicited credit card offers are not even putting a dent in the forests of America.

But energy use is a valid concern as well, so let’s examine it for a moment. On the surface, it seems that producing tons of paper in the form of mail makes direct mail one of the more wasteful forms of advertising in terms of energy consumption. But direct mail’s proven ROI is exactly what makes it one of the more efficient advertising media.

Consider a billboard on the side of a highway. Seems pretty passive, during the day at least. But every night, that billboard consumes many kilowatt hours of electricity in lighting so that it may remain effective. And that billboard is nowhere near as effective as a targeted direct mail campaign at cutting through the advertising clutter.

Another example is e-mail advertising. Many assume e-mail is automatically efficient because there is no manufacturing or transportation cost involved. But those people probably have not been to a server farm in person. E-mail and web site servers, depending on their size, can consume massive amounts of energy. And thanks to the 24-hour nature of Internet advertising, those servers must remain on-line whether a customer is looking or not. The customer himself also contributes to the energy consumption, as he must use a computer to access the message.

By contrast, the targeted nature of direct mail means less energy is wasted in sending your message to an unreceptive audience. And once that audience has your message, they need’t consume any additional energy to read it.

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