Famous Last Words: Axel Andersson’s Amazing Archive
Andersson—a dynamo with a mop of gray curly hair and a heavy European accent—was the greatest student of direct mail I have ever known. “Creating direct mail without studying other people’s successful direct mail,” Andersson wrote, “is like trying to do brain surgery without studying brains.”
Every few months, Peggy and I would ship several giant cartons of our duplicate mailings to Andersson, and he add would them to his private archive in Florida.
A few times a year, Andersson would come to Stamford (and later to Philly after we moved here) to spend time in our archive, and to spend hours working in his hotel room studying duplicate mailings. In Philly he always stayed at the low-cost Comfort Inn on Race Street in the middle of Chinatown. “Why should I stay at the Marriott or the Four Seasons?” he said. “Of course I can afford them, but all I will run into are people just like me. If you are in marketing, you have to mingle with the people you are marketing to.”
One of “Axel’s Axioms” was, “If you are in marketing, always take the streetcar or subway to work.”
While the Who’s Mailing What! Archive is cataloged by mailer, product and date, Andersson’s massive collection is sorted by technique: membership cards, offers, freemiums, headlines, continuity series, book clubs, etc.
This fascinating concept could be hugely useful to the vertical sectors of the direct mail community—especially those companies and agencies that are flying blind with young, inexperienced account execs and writers.
Andersson, now in his late 80s, called me in early March to say that his archive is available. He would like to see his life’s work—or portions of it—passed on to marketers that could benefit from it.
“How much room does it take up?” I asked.