Forrester Research’s Dave Frankland on Environmental Trends
When you look at something like direct marketing, which already comes under criticism for various reasons … there’s already sort of a negative perception. So it struck me as odd that in an industry that is a unique target, where it looks like a lot of paper coming into my mailbox, the lack of consideration was pretty high.
I’m not going to criticize a business that’s decreasing direct mail in favor of other channels or reducing the size of its mailings when it’s primarily for cost-saving reasons. But that was one question [in the report].
The second question was, “How often do you consider the environment?” And you had 24 percent who said, “Rarely,” 7 percent said, “Never” and only 28 percent was either “Often” or “Always.” It strikes me that even if they’re not necessarily making the correct environmental decision, they should at least be, I would say, often considering it.
TM: What factors are driving direct marketing practices that are considered “green”?
DF: Cost cutting’s an interesting reason. Going into this [research effort], we expected a response saying, “We’d love to focus on the environment, but it’s too expensive.” What we found was for the small number that heavily focused on it, it doesn’t have a major negative financial impact. There’s obviously some environmental concern out there, but I think the larger [percentage of] focus is on relevance as well as a sort of focus on the financial side, such as reducing the bulk of mailings, using other formats … And again, I’m not criticizing that, but it’s not done in tandem with a consideration for the environment.
And I think, along with that, not with the awareness of the consumer environment today. Part of the challenge for any business or any marketer is that consumers often say they want one thing and then sometimes do another. Look at any direct marketer, who will tell you that nobody wants to receive phone calls during dinner, but [they] get responses … I think that when you look at consumers, the concern level is higher than the action level. There’s a potential danger that the consumer’s action, rather than necessarily changing their own behavior, is to criticize others’ behavior. And I think that direct marketing is one of those areas that needs to watch out [for this projection].