Letter: Automatic Selling Association Fits Better

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Tad Clarke's editorial really took me back ("Is It Time for DIMA?" Dec. 13). I do remember the 1983 name change ... it was so progressive. No longer were we just catalogers or mailers, we were "marketers." But this time around I believe the new name (like the original Direct Mail Marketing Association) should be more reflective of actual practice.

Buying at retail is interactive. So is talking with a door-to-door salesman. The word "direct" implied a reduction in the layers of distribution, as in "direct factory outlet," and if you can believe that one, you can believe what we currently call ourselves.

The truth is, mailers rarely segment or personalize. They send big lists to big printers to dump in the mail. Those that do employ "personalization" simply create smaller batches by automated data processing. How many political calls were done with automated dialing? (I got several "personal" messages from both presidential candidates.) The direct marketers I know have even used "sales force automation" to improve personal field sales efficiency.

I say let's drop the facade. Working with catalog companies for more than 20 years has shown me that we want to send out our sales info as automatically as possible, take orders and ship merchandise, collect the money and automatically update our database. There is little interaction and very, very little marketing.

I called a noted catalog company the other day to return a mis-shipped item (at least I think they shipped the wrong item, though I never "interacted" with anyone when placing my Web order). The TSR assured me that it was my mistake and that they don't even carry the item I thought I ordered. Somewhat frustrated with the "interaction," I revisited their site and found exactly what I wanted.

Looking at actual practice, we should consider a name like the ASA (Automatic Selling Association). I checked the Net, and asa.org is not in use. It may be crass, but think how it captures the spirit of our industry.

John Miglautsch, jrmigs@sprynet.com

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