I can’t think of an industry that has more of a right to have a self-image problem than direct marketing. Telemarketers interrupting meals and TV shows or junk mail clogging our mailboxes (both physical and electronic) are not endearing images for most people. Consumer resistance to direct marketing efforts in the forms of signing up for Do Not Call lists, installing Caller ID, and using e-mail filters provides ample evidence that a lot of people do not want to deal with unsolicited marketing messages.
So what should direct marketers do in the face of this resistance? They should accomodate consumers, making it easier for them to block marketing messages. Yes, I said let’s help consumers keep us away. The more self-regulated and proactive the direct marketing industry is, the less need there is for governmental regulation. That is why the Direct Marketing Association’s announcement of its DMAChoice initiative is noteworthy.
DMAChoice will provide consumers a channel for opting out of mailing lists and offer resources to educate consumers on privacy and preventing fraud. The DMA even talks about DMAChoice being a social networking platform for consumers to interact. Don’t expect DMAChoice to become the next MySpace or Facebook, but the DMA should be commended for the DMAChoice initiative. The only criticism that can be leveled is that it has taken too long for the direct marketing industry to be more consumer-focused. The industry has been reactive, not proactive in this area, but at least strides are being made.