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The Costly Weight of Marketing Clutter

Today, pastor Ben over at the Church of the Customer shared the weigh-in of his unwanted direct mail for the holiday season: a whopping 21.5 pounds. That’s for one household. Let’s pretend we’re being interviewed by a management consulting firm and do some “back of the envelope” estimation.

There are around 100 million households in the US, but based on household income, let’s assume 40 million of those wouldn’t be considered attractive enough to be targeted with this type of weighty marketing (the heavier the paper, the more it costs to mail, etc. A lot of high end modeling goes into whether you receive a catalog, how frequently you get mailed, and how many pages get mailed to different types of households). So that’s 60M mailed addresses.

Let’s also be conservative and assume that the Church is on the particularly high end of the spectrum and discount the weight they received by 25% to get a number that we feel more comfortable extrapolating over the rest of the population, so that would be a household poundage of 16.125 lbs.

Based on these above numbers our (conservative) estimate of the holiday direct mail that cluttered homes is just under 1 billion pounds (967,500,000) or 483750 tons.

treestI’ll also use a low-ball estimate of number of trees per ton of paper (7.68 trees) to offset the fact that while folks like Neiman’s are using close to 15 trees per ton of their catalogs, some marketers (including Dell, Patagonia, and Williams Sonoma) are using more and more recycled paper. This brings us to a grand total of 3,715,200 trees.

I have no idea how to estimate the brainpower used to create the catalogs, the gas burned to bring these gems to my mailbox, and the gas burned to take them from my recycling bin to a recycle center, I’m guessing that it would be enough to make starting a conversation with your customers not look quite so expensive after all.

(If you want to stop receiving unwanted catalogs, visit Catalog Choice. If you’d like to plant some trees to offset the onslaught, visit Plantit2020. If you’d like to know more about opening a dialogue with your customers, visit WOMMA.)

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