Famous Last Words: Direct Mail Redux?
For more than 35 years, my wife, Peggy, and I have been saving our direct mail for inclusion in the giant Who’s Mailing What! Archive of samples in more than 200 categories—consumer, business and nonprofit. I believe this extraordinary collection is the mother lode of American direct mail research. Students of the medium can find true marketing gold in the almost 1,000 of Axel Andersson’s Grand Controls—mailings that have been received in the archive for three or more consecutive years, which means the marketers sending them out have cashed (or are cashing) in big. Marty Conroy’s “Two Young Men …” effort for The Wall Street Journal was a control for more than 18 years and generated an estimated $1 billion-plus in subscription revenue.
When Peggy and I ran the archive and newsletter out of our house in Stamford, Conn., we kept the mailings in file drawers. Now thousands of them can be downloaded from the archive as PDFs at whosmailingwhat.com.
Direct Mail Is Alive!
“The Next Wall About to Fall: Direct Mail” is the title of an article by Diego Vasquez in medialifemagazine.com. He trotted out all the old shibboleths that direct mail is expensive and gets trashed, whereas e-mail is filtered, so recipients only get the stuff they want.
I don’t buy it. Spam gets through, and we are being inundated with the stuff—along with the personal and business correspondence we have to deal with. For example, whenever I go to my Yahoo and AOL inboxes, I am in my delete mode—delete everything unless it’s obvious that I must deal with it.
Further, subject lines—the equivalent of the envelope teaser in direct mail—are words only, often smarty-pants and uninspired, with no design. For me to open e-mail, either the sender or the subject line has to grab me by the throat, or it’s gone. Remember, your e-mail is one click away from oblivion.