Secrets of the decade's most successful controls.
By Hallie Mummert
While direct marketers and Internet services companies strive to determine what roles Web sites and e-mail play in selling directly to consumers and businesses, direct mail continues to rule the direct marketing media mix.
And with good reason. According to the Direct Marketing Association's 2004 Response Rate Study, only telemarketing and dimensional mail were reported by direct marketers as more effective than direct mail at pulling response.
But let's consider these media that are more successful than direct mail. The fact that dimensional mail's bulk and dramatic presentation attracts attention is what prevents it from generating long-term controls—it quickly fatigues. Telemarketing is a phenomenal performer … when you can use it. About 85 million phone numbers are registered with the National Do-Not-Call Registry; which lessens the reach of this medium.
That leaves direct mail as the main tool direct marketers have to communicate with prospects and customers. Yes, other media are quite effective at generating strong response at an efficient cost. But most of these vehicles—insert media, e-mail, space advertising—tend to work well for some business sectors and not for others.
Direct mail is the universal medium, as the mailers of the 257 Axel Andersson Grand Controls in circulation during the last decade can attest. The Axel Andersson Grand Controls are direct mail efforts that have been tracked by the Who's Mailing What! Archive—a direct mail library and research service that collects packages in nearly 200 categories from correspondents nationwide—as having been mailed for three years or more, regardless of whether those years are consecutive. In fact, a good number of the 257 controls analyzed for this cover story have been mailed for longer than three years; for example, a billboard effort from Smithsonian magazine has been in circulation for the entire decade.
In case you are wondering, the name for this direct mail award comes from direct mail veteran Axel Andersson, who, years ago, ran a hugely successful mail-order business in Germany. He currently resides in Florida, where he continues to study direct mail for his consultancy clients. It is Andersson's conviction that there is no better source of direct mail insight than the knowledge that can be gleaned from studying long-term controls, as well as the new controls that beat them.