With the economic downturn, the green discussion seems to be somewhat muted. Not "Silent Spring"-like, but certainly palpable and, frankly, disturbing given the severity of global warming and other signs of environmental degradation. Similarly, just when so-called "green mail"—recycled envelopes, soy inks, green seals, environmental messaging, etc.—was building momentum, the economy tanked and seemingly took the green gang with it.
The questions are: Will green mail become a priority again, in marketers' minds and budgets? Will prospects respond in a different way in the future to green efforts? Will the association between direct mail and environmentalism become less paradoxical, or more?
The answers, of course, depend on who you ask. I spoke to many prominent folks in the direct marketing community, and I'd categorize their responses in the following ways.
Not a Big Deal, for Some Marketers or Prospects
For some, the fact that pro-environment practices among both marketers and prospects declined over the recent year says it all. "It's just not that important to people, important though it may be to the planet," says Bob Bly, copywriter.
Others simply interpret direct marketing's uneasy alliance with green initiatives having to do with the almighty dollar, regardless of how prospects behave. "In marketing, it never has made much difference. And I doubt it ever will," asserts Peggy Greenawalt, president/creative director of the direct marketing agency Tomarkin/Greenawalt. Incidentally, in contrast to Bly, she does see personal practices going greener.
It's the Right Thing to Do, Even If Green Has No Impact on Response
Concerns over whether or not green initiatives can be fit into a marketing budget or make sense for prospects can take a back seat to a company's commitment to be greener, however. "Marketers should 'go green' when doing so is a core value, that is, when they care about the environment for its own sake," states Steve Cuno, chairman of RESPONSE Agency. "They should not expect going green to be a general business-driver. Except, of course, when the target market happens to be ardently earth-friendly."