This past week HSBC launched its “There’s No Small Change” campaign offering Green Kits full of eco-products and offers to new customers that sign up for a checking account and HSBC’s automatic bill payment option. Such an offer is a win-win-win: customers receive a high value offer, HSBC acquires new customers that have built-in switching costs via the automatic payment options and the environment is healthier due to reduced paper consumption.
One of the reasons why such an offer may resonate with consumers is the growing acceptance that paper-based communications are not environmentally sound. Such changing sentiment could foreshadow a backlash by consumers and advocacy groups that may force marketers to rein in all paper-based marketing efforts, including the $56 billion US direct mail industry.
Today, direct marketers rely on DM as a core channel to send targeted information to customers (from an in-house database or purchased from an external list). What happens then if consumer backlash against the mounds of direct mail received each day results in a national “Do Not Mail” list, eliminating the ability of marketers to send solicitations without permission? Sound fantastical? Well, here are a few thoughts to consider:
First, the “Do Not Call” campaign was one of the most successful campaigns in history, resulting in 62 million consumers signing up in the first year alone. As of September 2006, more than 132 million people were registered on the list.
Second, a “Do Not Mail” registry is gaining traction. According to the Direct Marketing Association, “Do Not Mail” legislation has been introduced in more than 14 states so far this year that would create state-based registries. Nine of these initiatives are still active (of which 5 are in Northeastern states where there is also real concern about limited landfill space):
|CT,HI, MI, MO, NJ, NY, RI, VT, WA||Active/In Committee|
|AK, CO, MD, MT, TX||Postponed/Withdrawn|
Inevitably, such a registry (or the threat of one) will cause marketers to rethink paper-based channels, increasing their reliance on electronic communications (eg, websites, email, e-statements, e-catalogs, desktop widgets). It is also likely to decrease the footprint of any remaining direct mail efforts (eg, use of post-consumer recycled paper, reduced frequency and size of package).
Smart green marketers should interpret pending legislation as a call-to-arms and take proactive steps to reduce their addiction to paper-based channels before they have to go cold turkey.