From a standpoint of social responsibility, much of what direct marketers know is neutral. For instance, incentive offers multiply response, large envelopes sell more than the standard Number 10, and First Class Mail reply cards increase response, even when phone and online orders are an option. Useful tips, but hardly socially significant.
But sometimes direct mail knowledge proves as helpful to humankind as to the bottom line. For instance, direct marketers have long known that sales increase when readers identify with people depicted in an advertising piece. Contrary to marketing folklore, you will sell more to women if you show a believable woman using the product. For men, show a believable man. Observing this rule will help you increase sales. Happily, it will also help cut down on objectifying the sexes.
The markets aren’t entirely self-honest. Research shows that most people consider themselves above-average in looks, fitness and intelligence. That’s a mathematical impossibility, but perhaps it explains why the over-70 market is more likely to respond if you represent them with photos of active, white-haired people who are actually in their mid to late 50s.
This discussion would be incomplete without a look a race. Marketers who fail to depict non-Caucasians risk missing out on sales to more than one-third of the population of the United States. That’s more than 100 million people. Studies disagree on the percentage of total ads in the U.S. that depict non whites. Reports range from 30 percent down to 8 percent — somewhere between too low and way too low. Equally disturbing is a reported tendency in advertising toward racial stereotypes. No, I won’t list them. No need to give them more ink.
Taking care to be racially inclusive offers advertisers a significant opportunity to increase sales while, at the same time, reinforce the scientifically established and socially crucial message of humankind as one family.
Want to increase your market by 50 percent or more, and do the socially responsible thing while you’re at it? Take a look at your marketing. See if you’re leaving anyone out.