Marketing: Mormon mailing lists

I received a surprising piece of mail back in January or February 2003 — a postcard plugging the release of the Halestorm film “The RM.” I experienced a moment of righteous indignation as I thought there was no way that Halestorm could have gotten a hold of my postal address without engaging in anti-consumer behavior. After I calmed down, I realized that the most likely scenario is that Seagull Book & Tape (who does have my address — and received it legitimately) shared or sold Halestorm their mailing list. Not the the most consumer-friendly practice, but at least they are pushing similar products and so one could reasonably assume that if I’m interested in what Seagull (they own the local LDS bookstore) sells, I might be interested in LDS film. It’s possible that it wasn’t Seagull, but the only other possibility is the Association for Mormon Letters, but I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t cut a deal with Halestorm or any other LDS film company or book publisher.

Either way, the experience sensitized me to the world of Mormon marketing so I was intrigued by the discovery that the LDS music festival I mentioned two weeks ago (the whole Fireside Song thing) is being produced by LDS Marketing Group Inc.

Before I discuss the LDS Marketing Group, let me just get this out of the way:

It must be incredibly frustrating to be an purveyor of LDS-related products or services. Here you have a fairly discrete, homogenous population tied in to an institution that is set up so that (at least theoretically) every member of the group can be reached via a network of stewardships and communication lines and you aren’t able (or supposed) to use that network to get the word out to potential customers. And I’m not being wholly sarcastic here. After all, as someone with a keen interest in seeing the market for Mormon cultural products expand and mature, I want LDS to become accustomed to the idea of themselves as consumers of Mormon culture.

This is all to say that I’m sure it’s difficult to start and maintain a Mormon mailing list unless you are Deseret Book or Seagull or Signature.

So what does a new player on the scene do to market their Mormon-related products?

Contact the LDS Marketing Group, of course.

Through a program called Latter-Day Values (it’s a play on words — get it?), the LDS Marketing Program is creating (has created? their Web site hasn’t been updated in awhile) a co-op mailng program of up to 30 businesses to market products to U.S. Mormons. In order to keep costs low, the mailing consists of 5 1/2 X 3 1/2 inch postcards and can be targeted to specific regions or even sub-regions (e.g. Northern California, Orem). What’s more Latter-Day Values claims to have “approximately” 1 million LDS households in its database and thus is able to reach 80% of all U.S. LDS households.

Hey — this sounds like a possible source of my “The RM” postcard. But here’s the real question: how did they build such a comprehensive mailing list?

According to their marketing kit (note: requires Adobe Reader):

“The LDS Marketing Group serves as an exclusive List Administrator for a number of LDS list sources. Our total list is comprised entirely of LDS consumers who have purchased LDS products in the past or have expressed an interest in purchasing LDS products. It is, in its purist form, an ‘opt-in’ list. Therefore, these are the ‘cream of the crop’ as far as prospects go.”

So. Does this mean that LDS publishers and companies have sold their mailing lists? Not illegal, even unethical (according to some), but kind of annoying.

I also wonder why the bigger players would want to share their mailing lists. If I were Deseret Book, Seagull, Covenant, Excel or even Signature, I’d jealously guard my list.

I may have more to say on this whole idea of Mormon marketing in the near future, but for now, I want to open this up to AMV readers.

Have you been receiving postcards touting Mormon products? Have you encountered examples of marketing that you thought were somewhat dubious (I have a Living Scriptures story, but I’ll let you share yours first)? Have you ever been asked to share your family members and/or fellow ward or branch members contact info with LDS companies?

The real subtext of all this, of course, is my concern that ward and branch directories have been used in creating some of the mailing lists out there. I’m not saying that this is the case with Latter-Day Values or any of the companies I mention in this post. But I welcome all comments, insider knowledge, anecdotes, etc.

6 thoughts on “Marketing: Mormon mailing lists”

  1. It’s pretty annoying to get marketed to like that. It’s a lot more annoying not to. What, I’m not good enough to get your lousy postcard? I’m Mormon. I buy things. Don’t insult me like that. 

    Posted by Adam Greenwood

  2. Clearly you’re not one of the chosen million, Adam. [Aside: That could be a selling point — hey the JW’s only have 144,000].

    I don’t know what you did wrong to not be part of the list, but whatever it is it shouws that you aren’t ready for Latter-Day Values [get it? it’s a pun!]. 

    Posted by William Morris

  3. I got one of these postcards for “The Best Two Years” (I live in NC). I assume it was because I invited a salesman for Living Scriptures into the house last summer. Living Scriptures works on a referral basis — It doesn’t take many visits to get referrals for the whole ward. 

    Posted by Bryce I

  4. This is a really interesting question for me, as an LDS musician. Expecially as an LDS musician wanting to target the youth of the church. ESPECIALLY as an LDS ROCK musician wanting to share my songs with the youth of the church.

    First of all, I find myself very fascinated and excited by LDS pop culture. I love to follow it, talk about it, and participate in it. I really enjoy it when I get mailers like what’s mentioned here.

    But I find it very frustrating as someone trying to promote a faith-centered product. The very organizational network that binds my audience together is the same thing that is blocking my ability to address that audience. And the weird thing is, that I believe it SHOULD be that way. People should NOT use the official church network to make money.

    But, if members of the church opt in to lists, then I have no problem with that. And they should also be allowed to opt out.

    Now, as a subgroup, the youth are very intersting. Because they are fiercely protected by the official organization of the church. There was a time when an LDS musician only needed to let a few wards know that they wanted to do a fireside for the youth, and suddenly, they were “on the circuit” here in Utah.

    These days, it’s much more difficult. You need to speak with the youth leaders of the wards, but how do you find out who they are? You can’t.

    And, since I play rock, there is instant suspicion that my music, somehow, can’t be righteous, and so the might feel a need to “protect” the youth from that.

    I’ve found that by far, my most successful way of getting word out is my own list that’s generated by my own website.

    MRKH 

    Posted by Mark Hansen

  5. Please tell the Living Scriptures story. My best friend and her husband have sold them and are big fans. I think it is a good product that is way overpriced, and uses guilt to get people to buy. Plus, you have to buy entire sets, you can’t buy individual videos. And, they have a Christopher Columbus video in their heroes collection. Yes, a murderer and rapist is a hero-sickening. 

    Posted by Jessica

  6. I just thought you would like to know that one of the companies you listed was basically anti-Mormon or at best apostate light. Signature books sells books that call General authorities Nazi sympathizers, racists etc. Other books that criticize the churches policy on women in the Priesthood etc. Thought you might want to know. 

    Posted by Tailgunner Joe

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