P&G Heads for the Database Abyss
The Mail-0rder Package-goods Pioneers of the Early ‘90s
At the end of this story are illustrations of the mailing pieces we received at the time. They are the products of epic lunacy in direct marketing:
* Quaker Direct. With a budget of $18 million, Quaker mailed 54 million envelopes containing cents-off coupons for 14 products ranging from Aunt Jemima Syrup and Cycle Dog Food to Gatorade and Quaker Oats. Each coupon was bar-coded with an individual household ID so the purchases could be data-entered and tracked. “At this point the database moves from a survey-driven data file to a sophisticated transaction-driven file,” wrote Mollie Neal in Direct Marketing. “Quaker executives call this ‘household management,’ in which they are able to organize detailed information by family, which enables them to communicate on a one-to-one basis in the future.” The whole thing bombed and Quaker closed it down in early 1991. Quaker’s Dan Strunk left for reasons never revealed to the press.
* Kraft. The company mailed out a quarterly magazine, Good Beginnings, filled with recipes, ads and “over $4 in money-saving coupons” for Brown Rice, Tang, Sanka, Postum and Post Bran Flakes. It did not last long.
* Select & Save. (US Patent #5822735) An insert program mailed in a bright red, poly/plastic envelope filled with all the usual suspects—insurance, Sears portraits, Kodak Film and Disney books, plus cents-off coupons for Bayer Aspirin, Lipton Rice & Sauce and Good Seasons Salad dressing, each with a unique household ID. Sending out a collection of mail-order offers and cents-off coupons is okay, but trying to build a database from the redemptions is just not cost-effective.
* Reward America. Citicorp’s attempt to build a database of supermarket shoppers and keep track of what they bought. Fred R. Bleakley in The Wall Street Journal on April 3, 1991 reported this six-year caper cost $200 million and generated $20 million in revenue before it finally was axed.