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Can Junk Mail Ever Be Considered Sustainable? Possibly

| Friday August 28th, 2009 | 4 Comments

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Picture 5Junk Mail. It’s a bad thing, all around, right? Forests worth of paper, tons of emissions delivering it, and 98%+ of the time, ignored. What good can possibly come from it?

Hang on a minute. Dukky has something different to offer, which may just make junk, er, direct mail an increasingly efficient thing, for all involved. And it comes from a completely unexpected source:

dukky direct mail smarterIn an unusual but completely sensible move, Dukky is both a direct mail company and the company behind Unjunk Mail, a service that lets you both opt out and in of what mailings you’d like to receive from Dukky. After all, whether we admit it or not, there are a few things we’d actually like to get in the mail. Or in Dukky’s case, email or SMS are also an option. Then, after having done extensive research to find the best combination of free, easy, and effective, Unjunk Mail gives you the direct link to three services that cover removing the spectrum of potential direct mail offerings.

Picture 6In a humorous nod to address the lag time between list removal and halting junk mail, they send you cheeky return to sender labels, like the one pictured here. This will result in first class mail going back to the send, and other classes getting recycled. In a sign of their thoroughness, the labels are from a green printer, on recycled paper with eco sensitive inks.

The Dukky mailings are not, but it’s what happens before and after them that makes for a more efficient, less resource intensive experience, that will only approve over time: Companies interested in being a part of Dukky mailings can select down to the exact criteria they wish to be included, helping mailings go only to the people they intend to reach, not just some mass list that they cross their fingers they’ll reach a supposedly high response rate of 2%. Two percent!

Dukky claims to get 8% response rate, and this is at an early stage in their progress. What will enhance this is that for the majority of their offerings, people are sent cards that have a unique url on them that needs to be visited to activate, and in doing so, much more accurate tracking of interest and action are possible. Alternately, Dukky gives people the ability to opt out of any further mailings. Whether spam burned people will trust what has been a classic spammer’s trick remains to be seen.

Rather then repeatedly mailing out to people, they clean their list of non responders after only a few mailings, further reducing waste circulation. And, in an interesting move, people can share offers they like with friends on Facebook and Twitter, and suggest friends that would be interested in the same offers they’re getting, then those people get the chance to opt in (rather then having to opt out after) so the list further improves in quality, interested people, who can then specify which method of delivery works best for them, most of them paperless.

While I’m still not a fan of physical direct mail, I can appreciate and see the business case for doing it, in an economical, intelligent, consumer positive fashion. As Kristen from Unjunk Mail said well, their aim is to reduce waste and increase relevance. And it appears they’re succeeding.

Readers: What’s your take on this? Can direct mail ever be sustainable? What would you do to improve this service? What are some other ways you’re seeing marketing being made more two way, effective, and relevant?

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations around, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media. Who he has and wants to work with includes consumer, media, clean tech, NGOs, social ventures, and museums.


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  • http://www.unjunkmail.com Kristen

    Thanks for talking about the Unjunk Mail and Dukky story.

    I hope some healthy conversation about junk mail and the direct mail industry follows.

    One point of clarification – right now, Dukky is guaranteeing an 8% response rate to clients. Response rates to the physical mailers should actually be much higher. Our goal? “100% redemption.”

    Kristen

  • Ashwin Seshagiri

    Those return to sender cards are great. Really cool way to turn direct mail on its head.

  • Paul S

    @Kristen: Thanks for the clarification. Great to hear, and I’d be interested to hear how it improves over time as you refine your lists.

    @Ashwin: Agreed, it puts some fun in something that is otherwise an ever present low level annoyance.

  • Pingback: Mailing List Opt-In and Opt-Out | DUKKY - Our target is 100% redemption.

  • http://www.britesprite.co.uk Chris Milton

    I had a thought the other day, that snail mail would eventually just become a form of advertising with all P2P comms transferring onto social media.

    Dukky is your new postal service: you can even block people like you can on twitter.

    Neat! (I hope!)