What is junk mail? Definition and examples

Junk Mail refers to things we receive in the post but did not request, i.e., Unsolicited Mail. We use the term when referring to physical and electronic mail. Direct mail and direct marketing firms send junk mail to hundreds of millions of people across the world every week.

Companies use this type of mail to introduce new products, magazines, and investments. Local restaurants and businesses that deliver meals also send unsolicited mail to residents nearby. Charities send letters to people requesting donations.

In the advanced economies, such as the US, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, and Australasia, physical junk mail is a massive business. ‘Physical,’ in this context, means mail that we can touch; in envelopes. In other words, mail that comes to our front door.

Junk Mail versus Spam definition
According to Wikipedia, junk mail includes: “Advertising circulars, plastic mailers, coupon envelopes (Money Mailer, Valpak), catalogs, CDs, ‘pre-approved’ credit card applications, and other commercial merchandising materials delivered to homes and businesses.”

Junk mail – a lifeline

In fact, most national postal services today would probably struggle to survive without junk mail. It is a lifeline for them.

Despite the prevalence of digital communication, many consumers appreciate tangible materials, which can make physical junk mail an effective tool for businesses to tangibly connect with their audience.

Additionally, certain segments of the population, particularly those less inclined towards technology, often rely on junk mail for updates on local services, community events, and valuable offers.

Since the advent of the Internet, emails, and electronic communication apps, people have used traditional mail considerably less.

The Internet or Net is a global network of networks that interlinks computers across the world. It is rather like the physical postal system, but operating at light-speed.

Traditional mail means physical mail, i.e., sending letters in physical envelopes with stamps, and using postal workers to deliver them, etc.

Today, most of us communicate online, either in writing, speaking, or video-conferencing. We even pay most of our bills and do our banking online.

However, we still receive physical mailshots in large numbers. A mailshot is a dispatch of mail, usually promotional material, which is sent to many people at the same time. Mailshots are a type of junk mail.

Merriam-Webster has the following definition of the term:

“Unsolicited mail that consists mainly of promotional materials, catalogs, and requests for donations.”

Junk mail vs. spam

There are two terms – junk mail and spam – which have very similar meanings, but which we use in different situations.

  • Spam

Spam also refers to sending unsolicited letters to many people. However, spam only occurs online. You might receive spam via email, chat applications such as WhatsApp, Skype, and social media websites.

Companies, political parties, charities, and other entities use spam to promote their products, ideas, or raise money.

Sometimes, people send spam for sinister reasons. Perhaps they want to infect your computer with malware or a virus, steal money from you, or embarrass you. Malware, made up of the first half of malicious and the second half of software, is software that a programmer has deliberately designed to be harmful.

Spam is also a brand of canned cooked meat that Hormel Foods Corporation sells. It consists of pork, ham meat, salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrite.

  • Junk mail

Junk mail refers to unsolicited mail that companies, charities, political parties, and other entities send. However, unlike spam, the term may refer to either traditional or electronic mail.

In the early days of the Internet, we used the term extensively when talking about unsolicited electronic mail. However, ‘spam,’ appeared and started taking over.

Today, the term ‘spam’ dominates when talking about things in the digital world. We still see the word ‘junk,’ online. For example, in many email applications, there is a ‘junk’ folder, i.e., a folder for junk mail.

Compound phrases with ‘junk’

A compound phrase is a term that consists of two or more words. ‘Junk Mail,’ for example, is a two-word compound phrase. Let’s look at some commonly used compound phrases that contain the word ‘junk’:

  • Junk bonds

High-yield bonds with a lower credit rating than investment-grade corporate bonds.

For example: “Investors were wary of the new company’s offer, as it was financed by ‘junk bonds’ with a high risk of default.”

  • Junk DNA

Segments of DNA that do not code for proteins and were once thought to have no function.

For example: “Recent research has shed light on ‘junk DNA,’ suggesting it may play a critical role in regulating gene activity.”

  • Junk art

Art created from old or discarded items that are often considered trash.

For example: “The sculpture exhibition showcased ‘junk art’, transforming scrap metal into stunning visual pieces.”

  • Junk food

Food that is unhealthy, usually being high in calories from sugar or fat, with little fiber, protein, vitamins, or minerals.

For example: “Nutritionists recommend avoiding ‘junk food’ to maintain a balanced and healthy diet.”

  • Junk science

Unsubstantiated or pseudoscientific claims presented as factual science.

For example: “The court case was a battle of real expertise against ‘junk science’, and thankfully, the jury could tell the difference.”

  • Junk shop

A store that sells old or used goods that are cheap and of low quality.

For example: “He found an antique clock of surprising value at the local ‘junk shop’, hidden among the assorted bric-a-brac.”

Video – What is Junk Mail?

This educational video, from our sister channel on YouTube – Marketing Business Network, explains what ‘Junk Mail’ is using simple and easy-to-understand language and examples.

Interesting Related Article: