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.