Marketing to Relatives of Deceased People

April 20, 2009 at 6:08 pm Leave a comment

Your question:  Is it illegal to send a letter to the family of a deceased individual?  Namely, can I send a direct mail solicitation to the family members of a deceased person?

Our answer:  While I’m certainly no legal expert, I do not believe that it is illegal to send direct mail solicitations to the family of someone deceased.

With that said, and without knowing the details of your offer, it could be taken as predatory–taking advantage of someone when they’re at their lowest. Of course, if you are offering something of true value, I could be way off here.

For more insight, check out this article about reactions to marketing to deceased people (hence the family receives the marketing piece). While a tad old, I believe it’s still relevant.

I probably don’t have to stress enough to you that you should be very careful with your messaging and offer. People do not want to believe that marketers know too much about them. Consumers, in general, believe that ‘big brother’ gets involved in every aspect of their personal life, and they hate to see more evidence of this.

So, for example, I would not reference the fact that you are aware that someone close to your mail recipient recently passed away. Keep your piece generic and do not point out how you targeted your list/audience. Normally, I’m all for personalizing the message, but here the creepy factor comes in and, in my opinion, outweighs any benefits of personalization.

Here’s what I do know about marketing to deceased people. The DMA (Direct Marketing Association) maintains a file of deceased people. Relatives of deceased people may register the deceased individual’s name, address and email address to be used for suppression purposes (take these names off of marketing lists).

All DMA members are required to eliminate these individuals from their prospecting campaigns. The service is also available to non-members of DMA so that all marketers may take advantage of this service to eliminate names. More info on this service can be found here.

Hopefully, this information is helpful. I welcome any comments from people who may know more about the legality of this issue.


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