List Challenges in Asia

One of the many hurdles to marketing in Asia is the lack of a mailing list industry. For instance, list rental simply doesn’t exist in South Korea, says Charles Prescott, vice president of international business development and government affairs for the New York-based Direct Marketing Association. It is not expressly prohibited, but neither is it expressly allowed in the law, which Prescott says makes the practice illegal by default.

So companies there must resort to creative means of building up a database of names, Prescott says. For example, you can send catalog request forms as ride-alongs with credit-card statements and utility bills.

In China, it is considered acceptable business practice to rent lists, but no merge/purge is allowed. The company from which you rent a list will print out address labels but will not let you have the actual database file containing the names. So a cataloger renting the file has no idea what consumers on the list would be most valuable for it to mail to, or whether the names all relate to valid addresses.

Which brings us to another drawback to mailing into China, says Prescott: the unreliability of postal services there. “Addresses haven’t been standardized yet, and the Chinese are much more mobile than U.S. consumers,” he points out. Complicating matters, each of the nation’s 22 provinces has its own postal service. “It’s not uncommon for large mailers, such as big publishing houses, to have substantial portions of their mail pieces addressed to other provinces just go missing,” Prescott says.

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