A colleague and I were in a meeting the other day with a group of very experienced business people that were looking for answers on how to market their respective products.  Without going into the details of what they were looking to sell fair to say we are not talking FMCG or any other retail based business.

An interesting aspect of this meeting was a fixation on the Direct Marketing channel in what they kept referring to as “Junk Mail”.

After many years in marketing and advertising I am 100% convinced that “Junk Mail” has taken the heat on all “Junk Advertising” because it has been easier than most to associate any non-essential mail, addressed or unaddressed, to this “Junk Mail” terminology.Firstly let’s look at least into broadening the term to “Junk Advertising” because let’s face it there is so many badly, targeted badly produced advertising messages out there that are also just very much “Junk” to the consumer.For instance when I’m not in the market to buy a car is the latest automobile TVC or Billboard relevant to me or could I pop that in the “Junk” category.  It’s all well and good putting a number to me from an audience measurement standpoint but unless the message is super persuasive with a rock star offer I’m not going to be enticed to even consider a new vehicle, as such those ads are “Junk Advertising”, aren’t they?

The same goes with any other product or service, unless their advertising hits me at the actual time I’m ready to buy or at least engage in some thought on the product or service well then it’s simply “Junk Advertising”.

Of course I am not naive enough to not understand how advertising and marketing works as a whole, it is after all the profession of persuasion.  The advertisers cast a net within waters that they believe there are fish with the hope enough will be enticed in to be summarily dragged onto the boat, rendering them fully committed.

That’s the way it has been done for eons and a day, and if you think this has all miraculously changed with the digital age, think again.  Digital has certainly allowed a greater use of the segmented databases through the continued development of new technologies, but there are only a handful of companies that have truly mastered their databases.  This is only going to get worse considering that it is reported that 90% of the current data across the world was only collected in just the last two years with the expectation of this data growing by at least 600% by 2015.

It’s mind boggling to think of how much data both structured, customer transactional activity,
customer databases etc and unstructured, social media, blogs, forums etc, there is out there.  But what’s even more mind boggling is how it’s being used.

For example when retail conglomerates from around the world that have customer loyalty clubs where they track your every purchase then get into motor vehicle insurance, how do you think the premiums are calculated when your buying your pack of fags and a Red Bull from your retailers petrol station at 11pm, three nights a week?

You might find you’d be paying a little extra premium than others in order to mitigate the risk for your type of lifestyle. The price might even be high enough to encourage you getting quotes from somebody else, if you get my drift.

Of you start to search baby products online, after you have logged onto your favourite department stores website and guess what, they will now,  through their data analysis of your account, come to the conclusion that you or someone close to you is with bambino.

These companies using their data like this puts them a lot closer to making it not “Junk Advertising” but these are still the very minority of businesses.  No doubt this will improve in time with more businesses using their data in more marketing intelligent ways but will that stop the “Junk Advertising”, in a word no, not for a very long time.

You see a lot of the above mentioned sophisticated data using companies are also the main offenders when it comes to “Junk Advertising” because essentially they are the ones with the largest ad spend budgets.  As a result they saturate our airways, they fill pages in our magazines and papers, their banners are served up online and have catalogues and brochure at every turn.  Most of it just has them banging on about how good or how cheap their product or service is in the hope to persuade us to use whatever they are selling, definitely “Junk Advertising” personified.

So why then does “Junk Mail” carry the load for all this “Junk Advertising”?  Well simply put it, “Junk Mail” got that tag a long time ago and it has just stuck and fair to say a lot of it is in fact just “Junk Mail”.

But it’s no worse than any other “Junk Advertising” I.e. “Junk TV” “Junk Radio” “Junk Press” and yes even “Junk Digital” “Junk Social” etc. , the list could go on but hopefully you get my point.

So in essence I’m not here trying to defend the indefensible in “Junk Mail” but I would just like for everybody using this term to consider that any advertising message that is not using a high degree of targeting or that doesn’t have an absolute clear brand positioning or that has a lack of customer loyalty and engagement as just “Junk Advertising ” full stop, regardless of the channel being used.