Back in 1988, Neil Young wrote a song called This Note’s For You. He was angered by the extent to which rock and pop musicians were entering into partnerships with major corporations, thus effectively becoming part of their advertising strategies. The song included the lines, “Ain’t singing for Pepsi, Ain’t singing for Coke. I don’t sing for nobody, Makes me look like a joke.”
This blog entry isn’t precisely about that vexatious topic, but in my mind it is related, because it’s about the way in which big business promotional activity is invading all of our lives, without our permission.
It’s probably the lower end of the scale of this big business invasion, but advertising brochures come unbidden through my letterbox every day, and I don’t like it.
On November 15, 2018, I started making a list in my diary/journal of every brochure that came through my letterbox. That very day brought a 44page, A5, full colour brochure trying to flog me Penelope Chilvers Footwear For Experience And Adventure. If and when I next want new shoes, I’ll probably go online and see what’s out there, or maybe I’ll wander round a few shoe shops and check out their stock. I might even look at the feet of a few friends and, if I like what I see, I might ask what kind of shoes they are, and if my friends were happy with their purchases. ‘Experience and adventure’ probably won’t be qualities that I’d be listing high on my priority list for my new foot coverings. Comfort, quality of manufacture, value for money … that’s what I’ll be looking for. But the most important thing is that I’ll make up my own mind about what I want by doing some research. I certainly won’t just scan the range of products available from one manufacturer, which is what this brochure is trying to make me do.
It doesn’t take much research online to discover that I could have 1000 brochures of the same size, shape etc as Penelope’s knocked up for £900. Of course, I have no idea how many brochures Penelope sent out on this run, but even if it was only 1000, that’s still £900 worth of profit her company has to make before the exercise breaks even, without even taking into consideration what it costs to deliver the brochure to thousands of doors across the nation. Surely this must contribute to putting the cost of the items in the brochures up?
On the same day, I also received This Works 24hr Skin Solutions, a mere 28 pager, also A5. I don’t actually have any significant skin problem that requires a solution, and neither does my wife, at whom this brochure was fairly obviously aimed. Again, This Works would have to sell quite a lot of solutions to pay for their brochure.
The following day brought another rivetingly interesting 28page A5 brochure, entitled Spoke – Flawlessly Fitting Chinos. The same logic that applied to Penelope’s Footwear For Experience And Adventure, applies to these Flawlessly Fitting Chinos. I certainly would not go out to the shops looking for only trousers made of that particular twill fabric.
Before the sun had risen on another day, I also received ROHAN – Travel Clothing And Accessories., 52pages, A5 sideways. Before I reached the bottom of my diary page, just two weeks later, I had received a total of 19 brochures, mostly A5 but some A4, a few of them as big as 100 pages. That’s a lot of paper, a substantial weight and when you add together all of their printing and delivery costs – not to mention design costs etc – there’s a significant amount of money being spent on this type of unwanted invasion of my home.
My ‘favourites’ were the Christmas Dogalogue, choc full of canine-oriented Yuletide gifts; and Fur Feather And Fin, featuring a wide range of outdoor clothing and accessories. Other organisations which felt they should spend money on sending me glossy brochures included Specsavers, Wilko, Viking Stationery, House Of Bruar, Nkuku and Kettlewell.
Obviously, if I don’t want them, I can ask each individual company not to send me brochures. Or I can send marketing companies a data protection notice. If those approaches don’t work I can call in The Information Commissioner’s Office, and if even that proves ineffective I can take the junk brochure senders to court. But why? Why should I have to do any of these things? Why should my time and effort have to be used to stop people sending me things I do not want?
Clearly, many, many thousands of pounds are being spent on mailing out brochures like these, which people like me usually just put straight into the bin. I can’t help but wonder how many of these companies are also contributing cash to worthy charities? Very few, I suspect.
I know this is hardly a major issue. It’s arguably little more than a ‘first world problem’. But bear these thoughts in mind …
- These brochures are a waste of natural resources. How many acres of rainforest are represented by all that paper?
- These brochures are an invasion of privacy. They come through our doors because someone somewhere has sold our personal details on a list to a marketing firm.
- These brochures are a waste of the time of Post Office staff, who would be better employed making sure the Post Office’s basic task – the delivery of mail – is done more efficiently and effectively.
- These brochures are a waste of my time, and probably yours too.
As usual, I have no answers to the problems posed by this practice. I just hate it.