The adventures of an analog engineer and digital storyteller who studies emerging networks and their impact on the great game of business.

A few days ago, I got an email from The Toll Roads, asking me to consider switching from paper-based statements to electronic ones. As I read the email, a sentence jumped out at me:

“Last year our paper statements consumed 190 trees.”

The sentence sounded familiar to me, so I performed a search of my email for the term “190 trees.”  Thirteen instances were revealed, with the oldest being sent to me on December 13, 2008.

As I dug into each email, I saw that the same sentence had been repeated in all of the emails that were sent in 2008, 2009, and 2010:

“Last year our paper statements consumed 190 trees.”

I found it hard to believe that The Toll Roads consumed exactly 190 trees annually over the past three years, but what else could I conclude? Here are three possibilities:

  1. The email marketing campaign is a complete failure because the Toll Roads hasn’t put a dent in their annual tree consumption rate.
  2. The campaign is a total success because the Toll Roads converted all new customers to paperless statements, thus maintaining the 190 tree per year consumption rate.
  3. The company is simply cutting and pasting the same email independently of how many trees are being consumed on an annual basis.

I still don’t know which one it is. I requested a clarification from The Toll Roads two days ago and am waiting for a response. But in the mean time, as an executive, you need to understand that everything your organization publishes becomes part of a database that can be mined. It doesn’t matter if it comes from marketing, PR, or sales–to your customer, it only comes from one place…your company.

So, is your company sending mixed messages to its customers?

Filed under: Mini Case Studies


So it looks like a monthly email campaign judging by the dates on your screen shot. I guess they align the email along with the paper statement. The just send the same message because they don't have fresher data. This stat is harmless. To your point, it could create larger issues if the message is not consistent with purpose.

Bob Williams
May 14, 2010

Priceless Ron! I agree with you that what a company does or how it behaves tells me more than anything they say. In this case, while the company says it's trying to save trees, the communication is really telling me that no one at the Toll Roads cares about that particular customer communication, and it's an afterthought. In addition, from a PR standpoint, it throws any other facts in doubt.

Julie Wright
May 14, 2010

My take is that they just did an “I Love Lucy” rerun of previous information they had sent out. All of which leads me to ignore their message.

As for paperless statements, I still do not “trust them” and would continue to insist on tangible pieces of paper to verify my account

Mike Natelson
May 24, 2010

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