This week, we received another entry into the “Did they really do that?” file. I understand that, at the volumes that many of these national marketers mail, they expect a certain percentage to misfire. It’s a cost-benefit calculation. But I wonder about this one. If you had been the service provider on this job, would you have said anything?
We received this piece in the mail the other day. It was from the NRA, and it included our “new NRA membership seal.” It was a prospecting mailer, but it didn’t look like it from the outside. It looked exactly like what it said — that we were receiving the new NRA seal that we (by implication) had requested. By taking this approach, the mailer could easily have given the wrong impression to friends, neighbors, family, or anyone else who saw it.
Regardless one’s feelings about the NRA, the public implication of membership gives a false impression. As a family, we don’t appreciate that.
If a direct mailing is going to be presumptuous, you might expect the organization to do a more thorough job of profiling. But other than the fact that my husband is a gun owner, there was nothing else relevant about this mailing.
Gun owners are not a homogenous group. You might expect an organization like this to cross the gun ownership with other data to increase the odds that the mailing would not misfire.
One simple cross-check would be political affiliation. According to the latest data I’ve seen, the vast majority of NRA members (73 percent) identified with or lean toward the Republican Party. There might be other cross-checks, such as membership to specific hunting magazines. My husband fits into none of the demographics associated with NRA membership.
The NRA can be a highly controversial organization. Publicly implying that someone is already a member (or wants to be a member) isn’t the same as sending a promotion on lawn care when someone cuts their own grass. The risk is not lack of response. It’s deeply offending the recipient, creating negative word of mouth, and creating or reinforcing a negative brand image. That’s a much higher level of risk. Then there are the ethical considerations related to publicly implying membership in (or affiliation with) a controversial organization when the recipient might have very different views.
I realize that marketers still spray and pray, but I wonder if there are some types of mailings that should not fall into this category, particularly those that imply association with causes, products, or organizations that might be controversial.
What do you think? Do you think that this “presumption of membership” is an appropriate approach for a national marketer? Why or why not? If you had been the printer on this project, would you have said anything about this approach?