February 28, 2019

Saving the Planet (and Consumers’ Sanity) One Less Wasted Ad at a Time

Saving the Planet

Ding-dong! It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday morning when the doorbell rings. You’re not expecting anyone. You set down your coffee and approach your front door tentatively, unsure whether to answer. When you spot the U.S. Postal Service truck out front, you get a little hit of dopamine. You’ve been waiting for that new book to arrive, and now you’ll have all weekend to read it.

But instead of the expected package, the mailman hands you a flier from the local lawn and garden center announcing its Independence Day sale — although the piece is so amateurishly produced that the heading is spelled “Independance Day.”

As you stand there in the doorway looking at the flier, disappointment quickly yields to befuddlement and then irritation. You feel contempt for that lawn and garden center, where you’ve made a couple of minor purchases in the past. Seriously? You interrupted my breakfast on a Saturday morning for this?

Unbelievably, the store delivers its flier several more times throughout the day. That same stupid “Independance Day” flier. Your irritation escalates. By the fourth time you refuse to answer the door, and you decide not only that you will never patronize that lawn and garden center again, but that you will also file a harassment complaint against them.

That’s a Pathetic Hypothetical, but Still…
That situation would never happen, of course. And yet something very similar happens all the time in digital marketing. Display ads intrude on our lives over and over again as we use our devices, disrupting our experience and stealing our time. But because digital ads are so cheap, brands don’t think twice about signing off on that insanely ineffective approach.

If a digital ad campaign were as cost-prohibitive as that hypothetical lawn and garden flier, brands would see it as the colossally wasteful exercise that it is. Sadly, the reverse is also true: If brands could inundate consumers with multiple pieces of direct mail as cheaply as they can serve them redundant digital ads, many would probably do it. (The devolution of the direct mail industry into the junk mail industry decades ago was proof enough of that.)

That’s because some brands take too narrow an approach to their marketing strategies. They tend to forget that the “investment” portion of “return on investment” represents more than a financial commitment. They need to start thinking holistically—and start considering the tax their putting on the consumer.

Yes, a direct mail campaign requires a financial investment from the brand. But in a broader sense, it also involves an environmental investment (paper, printing and the fuel used in delivering physical mail) as well as an investment of the recipient’s time. Interruptions annoy people. Wanton waste offends them. Years ago, as response rates waned with tonnage being sent, how often did you hear someone say something like this as they tossed away yet another piece of junk mail: “Next time, save a tree!”

Direct Mail Done Right
Direct mail response rates have rebounded nicely from those historical lows. More and more brands are finding that people crave tangibility in a virtual world — even digital natives.

That’s great news for us at PebblePost, of course. After all, we invented Programmatic Direct Mail®. But we worry about the pendulum swinging too far back the other way, toward the days of too much irrelevant junk mail. The U.S. Postal Service is already delivering 493.4 million pieces of mail per day, and 78.3 billion pieces of marketing mail per year. That’s a lot of trees.

That’s why we focus just as much on the Programmatic component as the Direct Mail component of PDM™. For the uninitiated, here’s our definition of programmatic: “Data-driven decisioning with high levels of automation that continuously enhance the efficiency and efficacy of the marketer’s goal.”

At PebblePost, we’re all about quality, not quantity. We sift online intent data to produce retargeting lists with only the highest likelihood of success. And we serve those consumers with quality pieces of collateral (no “Independance Day” fliers from us) that feel more like content than ads (magazines are the only other medium that consistently does this). And because our collateral arrives with consumers’ daily mail — no annoying Ding-dong! to disrupt their day, like in that opening hypothetical — they can interact with our content at any time and place they want, in the comfort of their home, and then respond when they want, through the marketing channel of their choice.

In short, at PebblePost we see the forest and the trees. Programmatic Direct Mail® is the marketing channel for a greener, more efficient, more respectful future. It saves natural resources and it saves consumers’ time, all while saving brands money.


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PebblePost® and Programmatic Direct Mail® are registered trademarks owned by PebblePost, Inc.
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