E-mail Marketing: Anthrax Has Little Effect on E-mail Plans

In the wake of the infiltration of anthrax in the postal stream, observers predicted that companies would increase their use of e-mail as a marketing tool. But not one of the catalogers interviewed by Catalog Age indicated that the anthrax attacks had caused them to change their e-mail marketing plans.

“Our plans were to step up our e-mail marketing in the next year anyway, before the anthrax scares,” says Dr. Alan Rimm-Kaufman, vice president of marketing for consumer and auto electronics cataloger Crutchfield. “Will we step it up even more so? Probably not.” Charlottesville, VA-based Crutchfield has about 500,000 opt-in names on its e-mail house file; it sends no more than two e-mails a month to these names.

Food gifts catalogers Cushman’s Fruit Co. and Zingerman’s, baking supplies marketer The Baker’s Catalogue, health and beauty supplies marketer Drugstore.com, and outdoor apparel cataloger/retailer Patagonia are among other mailers that said they would neither increase their e-mail frequency and circulation nor decrease their print mailings as a result of the anthrax incidents.

Morlee Griswold, catalog director of Ventura, CA-based Patagonia, sums up what appears to be the reasoning of most mailers: “We think that most people realize commercial mail is relatively safe.” Patagonia sends e-mail about every three weeks to approximately 350,000 consumers.

“We feel the majority of consumers have gotten to feel more back to normal” with respect to the mail, agrees Jeff Parnell, vice president/general manager of e-commerce for Warren, PA-based general merchandiser Blair Corp. Parnell thinks that the longer-lasting effect of the Sept. 11 attacks and the subsequent anthrax deaths is that “more customers will continue to cocoon. We’re now several months past Sept. 11, and people are still relishing time at home more than ever. Cocooning may have more of an impact on online and offline sales.”

While North Adams, MA-based Eziba, a cataloger of internationally sourced gifts, hasn’t changed its e-mail marketing strategy either, its public relations company, LaForce and Stevens, did decide to send e-mail press releases rather than print mailings following the anthrax scares. The releases, which promoted new products, were in HTML format with photographs, says John Voelcker, Eziba’s vice president of business development.

“The press could look at the press releases and electronically file them, rather than have them clutter up a desk,” Voelcker says. “At least two press releases were sent this way, and they received as good a response as, if not better than, the print releases we have sent out.”

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