Work still needed to lose the junk tag

There is an episode of 90s US sitcom juggernaut Seinfeld where hapless neighbour of the titular star, Kramer, launches a crusade to rid his life of mail. So incensed is he about receiving catalogues from retailer Pottery Barn that he goes to rather extreme lengths to “stop the mail” including bricking his letter box.

Russell Parsons

I was reminded of the episode this weekend when a neighbour of my own, upon enquiring what it is I write about at Marketing Week, unleashed a tirade about “junk” mail followed by a list of measures he takes to ensure that nothing drops through the letterbox, such as the local authority distributed stickers that warn “no junk mail” should pass.

The apoplexy of both Cosmo Kramer and my neighbour is shared by thousands of people nationwide. Door drops are as likely to end of up in the UK population’s Room 101 as traffic wardens and meddling Eurocrats. The channel has a perception problem.

Despite such challenges, brands have not been put off with some of the UK’s biggest companies willing to go in to bat for the channel. Use of it has reached a level of maturity in the UK that means marketers can sell the “tried, tested and proven” line to those controlling the purse strings. If so required, a brand willing to print the requisite amount of paper could achieve a 100% reach of their target group if their data was up to scratch.

But they shouldn’t. Indeed, efforts need to be stepped up to manage the public’s ire. To do this, the avenues available to consumers to opt-out need to be simpler to use and more heavily promoted. Instead of leaving it to the public to manage the type and frequency of mail delivered, the industry needs to wrestle back control and appear as if they empathise and can facilitate and opt-out that suits those that want to exercise a right to choose.

Moves have been made to achieve this but efforts appear to have stalled. The Door Drop Preference Service is set to replace the DMA’s Your Choice Preference Scheme and Royal Mail’s Door to Door Opt Out Scheme.

It was first mooted last November when the industry agreed its “responsibility deal” with the government on cutting waste. It was, according to a source, to launch last month but discussions are still ongoing between relevant stakeholders and no date yet set for the launch of the site.

Disagreements need to be ironed out and the service, in its proposed form a vast improvement on the fragmented offer currently, needs to launch sooner rather than later.

Door drop volume capacity has been reduced in recent years to reflect the rise of alternative communication channels. Work is necessary to improve perception and targeting to make sure that reduced capacity doesn’t turn into terminal decline.

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