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’I’ll Take One Blue LED ... and One in Green’

Photonics Spectra
Feb 2000
Gaynell Terrell

Americans who face a daily barrage of credit card applications and catalogs may find this hard to believe: Germany wants more American junk mail.

Officials with Deutsche Post AG, the state-owned postal service, will happily work out terms with US businesses for exporting junk mail -- "direct mail" as the industry calls it -- to German businesses and households. Direct mail experts suggest that Germany's drive to boost global mailings may provide opportunities for photonics companies to reach new customers.

Germans don't really care about American junk mail, but that style of marketing is a natural fit for Germans, who are practiced in buying by catalog because of restrictive European retailing hours, explained Rainer Hengst, spokesman for Deutsche Post in the US.

He estimated that Germans buy one-third more by mail order per capita than Americans. And because their mailboxes aren't already stuffed with direct mail, German consumers tend to have a higher response rate per catalog.

Deutsche Post is the largest postal service in Europe. It will provide a virtual marketing department of services -- mostly free to foreign merchandisers -- including advice about market entry, returns management, native language call-center support and in-country addresses, Hengst said.

The service will also advise on local customs. German consumers rarely use credit cards when ordering, and there are complicated privacy laws that prevent invasive target marketing.

But while Deutsche Post is trying to make it easy, marketers may encounter some obstacles, especially regulatory ones.

"The German industry is very comfortable with their home market. They are going to use every restriction they can to keep the market to themselves," said Charles A. Prescott of the Washington-based Direct Mail Association.

Edmund Industrial Optics of Barrington, N.J., sends about 25,000 catalogs to Germany annually. "We have been mailing the regular US version of our catalog without any problem," said Nicole Edmund, vice president of marketing. She added that the company's German sales are increasing, enough so that it will open an office there this year.

But if US households are frustrated by the average 350 pieces of junk mail they receive each year, will the German shoppers embrace it?

"That's a perfectly valid question," Prescott said. "If the marketer does the proper research to find out what consumers need and presents it in a way they appreciate it, the answer is yes."

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