“Vermin,” “spammers” and “workers Americans love to hate”: These are the words recently used to describe direct marketers.
The first aspersion came from William Burrus, head of the American Postal Workers Union, in an article he wrote for a recent union newsletter. And the other two came from Rich McKay, a reporter at the Orlando Sentinal, who visited last month’s annual conference of The Direct Marketing Association (The DMA).
The headline for Mr. McKay’s subsequent article was “Spammers, Telemarketers Share Strategies,”
and in the article, he wrote: “... direct marketers have become the workers Americans love to hate ...”
I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel offended by all of this animosity directed at the marketing industry. What’s even more nutty about all of this is that we Americans are renowned for our expert use of direct-marketing principles. Indeed, people come from all around the world to learn these principles from us, the masters of the medium. And yet, somehow we’ve become “vermin” and hateful.
I understand that the popular sentiment may be a backlash against telemarketing and the alarming rise in fraudulent, and even legitimate, e-mail offers. Upon my return to the office from The DMA show, I found 383 e-mails in my inbox — 90 percent of which were junk, which I define as poorly targeted, pornographic and/or obviously fraudulent. No kidding, 383. And I was gone for only two business days!
Then when I got home, I found a teetering stack of direct mail, (which in general I find better targeted and therefore relevant to my life). So, I share some of America’s frustration.
But to call all direct marketers derogatory names is unfair and even cruel. And I’m particularly disappointed in my reporter colleague from the newspaper. Those in the consumer press frequently point fingers at us in the trade media and say that our coverage of our respective industries is unduly biased. And yet it appears that Mr. McKay may need to adopt a more balanced outlook himself.
I agree with DMA officials who say direct marketers must police their own industry, but one can only do so for legitimate marketers. Those who batch and blast untargeted offers don’t really even qualify to be called true direct marketers. Nor do scam artists. So to lump highly trained and expert direct marketers into the same basket as criminals and incompetent target marketers is grossly unfair and, worse, not even accurate.
I know I’m preaching to the choir here. As catalogers, your ability to rent/exchange lists and participate in co-op databases — in short, your ability to smartly prospect — is the lifeblood of your business. It’s what keeps you and your employees working. Indeed, it’s what keeps our economy working. To spew venom at the people who do that is startingly short-sighted.