“No Junk Mail” Blues

“No Junk Mail” Blues

Take a walk up your street and see how many “No Junk Mail” placards are stuck prominently on letterboxes…

More and more householders are adorning their letterboxes with tags indicating that advertising material is unwanted. Indeed, most hardware retailers sell such tags as part of their general merchandise. These tags (some of which are courteous, others downright rude) usually wreak of frustration, irritation and belligerent rejection.

But what effects do these “advertising bans” have on retailers who depend on letterbox drops of catalogues and flyers to promote their products?

Hardware retailers are traditional letterbox “junkies” – major retailing groups as well as independents place great faith in strategic catalogue distributions to promote sales and special events.

Not only are “No Junk Mail” tags more prevalent, but distribution companies tend to be more respectful than ever of householders’ wishes. In Australia, a self-regulatory Distribution Standards Board operates as a subsidiary of the Australian Catalogue Associationwww.catalogue.asn.au. The Board’s Code of Practice stipulates that catalogue deliverers must not:


  • Place material in receptacles where a sign requesting non-delivery is displayed;
  • Deliver material where there is no receptacle to receive such material;
  • Leave multiple copies unsecured;
  • Deliver material where there is an obvious overflow of other such material; or
  • Throw or generally litter or leave items on the ground.


From time to time, disgruntled civic organisations even call for such measures to be enshrined in law.

So what are the options for hardware retailers if letterbox drops cease to provide blanket coverage?

One obvious solution is to include catalogues and flyers in local newspapers, which are not classified as junk mail. This means the printed material is inserted as an attachment within the body of the newspaper. Inserts printed by a retailer or group are cost-effective and normally generate a higher response than loose advertising material.

Other strategies involve alignments with clubs and groups for direct mail distribution. Under normal circumstances, direct mailouts are considered too expensive to be effective, but there are ways to cut costs. For example, a hardware retailer might make an agreement with a local gardening club to bear some of the postage costs of a regular club newsletter mailout. In exchange, the club might permit the retailer to insert a flyer in the newsletter. Such marketing initiatives can target audiences very carefully without breaking the bank.

Another strategy is to form a partnership with similar, complementary businesses. A hardware retailer, for instance, might offset the costs of a direct mailout campaign by including additional advertisements or flyers from landscapers, irrigation installers, pool maintenance firms or plumbers.

One thing is certain: “No Junk Mail” tags are already impacting on broad-based letterbox drops, and alternative strategies need to be investigated thoughtfully to reach the right markets cost-efficiently.

By John Power