#IronSharpensIron: When Direct Mail Hurts Instead of Helps

We live in an era where environmental impact is on the minds of many people, and every brand should be aware of how their actions are going to be perceived. Companies can’t do things the same way they did them even five years ago; climate change is real, it’s happening around us, and every company needs to be mindful of their environmental impact – especially when it comes to sales materials and direct mail pieces.

The biggest catalog I’ve seen in years.

I thought most companies were aware of the need to not be seen as wasteful, so I was surprised and frankly a bit irked to get this massive 2 pound 3 oz, 787 page catalog from Uline recently (shown above). This wasn’t just any junk mail – it was huge! I didn’t request this catalog, have never purchased anything from them, never gave them my information, and am not part of their customer market. It was addressed to the “shipping department” of an LLC I spun up two years ago for working with one client as a small side gig. This is Uline’s “hello” to a potential new customer, but I don’t have a warehouse or ship anything. This is direct mail marketing without appropriate targeting, and it backfired.

We all get junk mail, but most junk mail is not over two pounds. When I think about how much paper and fuel was wasted sending me this catalog – multiplied by the hundreds or thousands of times Uline does this every month and every year – it made me think less of their brand. This is the opposite effect you want a direct mail piece to have. Instead of sending a huge catalog, why not send a card offering an opt-in to get the catalog, with a push for online ordering, and a discount code to encourage the first order?

I’ll give Uline credit though: I went to their web site, submitted a contact form asking to be removed from their mailing list, and heard back within a few hours. That’s a great experience.

I hope I’ve seen the last of Uline’s big catalogs – I’ll come to them if I ever get that shipping department.

Have you seen any misfires in direct mailing recently? Or any that really hit the mark and made you feel like the company understood your needs? Let me know in the comments below.

Want more? Here are the other articles in my #IronSharpensIron digital marketing series.