As consumers, we are often bombarded with different types of advertisements each day. Whether it s by television, newspaper, billboards, or the internet, advertising has reached us one way or another. Yet, a majority of the ads that we encounter are often meaningless and uninteresting, because of the fact that these ads are meant to reach a certain target audience.
This perception seems to change, however, when we look inside our mailboxes, pick-up our telephone, and even check our e-mail. We often ponder how marketers know that we have a pet snake, own a certain kind of computer, or even wear 90 s clothing. That is because every time we purchase products such as: electronics, computer software, and other products; direct mail advertising is in the air. Every time we send in warranty cards and registration forms back to the manufacturer; as consumers we are often unaware that we are sending information about ourselves, that will be used as; statistical, personal, and informative data for future marketing purposes. Thus, marketers and advertisers know what kinds of products to target us with.
Although direct mail, or as we call it junk-mail somehow finds its way to our homes and businesses.
In order to understand direct-mail advertising, I will be discussing this unique form of advertising in a broad area. Among them are: what direct-mail advertising is, the historical development of the direct-mail advertising, different methods and types of mail, the future of direct-mail advertising, and the internet s use of and impact on direct-mail advertising.
Direct-mail advertising is a form of medium used by direct marketers, it is the most personal and selective of all media. Also, this highly specialized mail can be purchased (available among the thousands are lists of various level students, business professionals, college professors, pregnant women, and even vintage car owners), but they can be expensive. Printing and postage fees make the cost of direct mail per person reached quite high compared with other forms of media. However, because direct mail goes only to the people the advertiser wishes to contact, there is no wasted coverage. Reaching the prospect does not, however, ensure that the message is received. Direct mail is pure advertising. Therefore, a direct-mail ad must attract its own readers. This is critical when you consider that the average American home receives more than 10 direct mail pieces a week and that the recipient of ads on average decides within four seconds whether or not to, open it, or throw it out.
During the 1950 s and early 1960 s, computers emerged to be common business tools. Marketers were able to collect, store, and manipulate larger amounts of data to aid marketing decision makers. Out of this capability developed the marketing information system (MKIS)- an ongoing, organized procedure to generate, analyze, distribute, store, and retrieve information for use in making marketing decisions.
Another useful tool that developed for marketers is the decision support system (DSS). This particular system is a computerized procedure that permits the marketing manager to interact with data and use various methods of analysis to incorporate, examine, and characterize information.
These useful computer-based systems are then organized, stored, and updated in another computer in what is known as a database. This is perhaps the center for all direct-marketers, because it has allows them to narrow their specific target market feild by identifying people that they want to target for advertising.
With the developments of these two interrelated computer systems, direct-mail then emerged to be one of the many tools that direct-marketers conveniently use to target their markets. However, with the introduction of desktop publishing in the 1980 s, direct-mail advertising accelerated as an important medium for advertisers.
Growth of Direct-Mail
Another reason for the global success of direct-mail advertising, is the fact that this type of advertising can increase the effectiveness of ads in other media. For instance, advertisers do not send unsolicited mail. They will tend to use other direct-response media to reach their target market, and then use direct mail to respond to inquires. Thus, making direct-mail advertising to be the most effective method for closing a sale or generating attention of products, services, or ideas.
Throughout the history of advertising, newspapers and television have been the most widely used medium, based on total advertising dollars spent. However, their share has declined, as the amount of dollars spent for direct-mail advertising has increased. The Direct Marketing Association estimates that national advertisers spent more than $32 billion on direct mail in 1997, that+s nearly 20 percent of all the ad dollars spent in the United States. Making direct-mail advertising the forth-ranked advertising medium used today. Surpassed only by television, the Internet and newspapers.
The Development of Direct Mail in the Internet
The future of direct-mail advertising has developed side by side with the technology development of the World Wide Web. Through the Internet, conventional ways of direct-mail advertising is transformed in many ways through the advances of the developments of computer technology.
Direct-mail advertising now use the World Wide Web extensively to target their specified markets. One meaningful contribution of the Internet to direct-mail advertising is the process of selective binding. This innovative technique enables the advertiser to build unique versions of each type of direct-mail ad for reach their intended target audience more efficiently through the Internet.
Types of Direct-Mail Lists
The main part of any direct-mail program is the mailing list. Marketers and advertisers use 3 unique lists that will assist them to promote their products, services, or ideas.
House Lists – This is the marketer s or company s relational database of current, recent, and long-passed customers as well as future prospects for direct-mail programs. This list is the primary source used by the company.
Types of Direct-Mail Advertising
Direct methods of advertising and selling grew astronomically in the last decade. Direct-mail advertising comes in various formats from handwritten postcards to dimensional mailings. The message can be one sentence or dozens of pages. And within each of the following formats, the creative and marketing options are infinite.
Sales letters This is the most common direct-mail format. Often mailed with brochures, price lists, reply cards and envelopes.
Postcards – used to announce sales, offer discounts, or generate customer traffic.
Business reply mail – enables the recipient to respond without paying postage. On receiving a response, the advertiser pays postage plus a handling fee of a few cents. Postage-free incentives usually increase response rates.
Statement stuffers – are direct-mail advertisements that are enclosed in monthly customer statements from credit card, banks, and phone companies.
Catalogs – reference books that list, describe, and often picture the products sold by a manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer.
The Use of Visual Communication
The uses of visual communication for direct-mail pieces are made to be unique for each of the individual target markets. As a designer of a direct-mail piece, they must first attract the reader, get the piece picked up, opened, and read. Also, in direct mail, the advertising must be present. To be successful, each direct-mail piece must contain the following principals, which are interrelated with one another:
Letterhead – a clever letterhead is what counts on direct-mail pieces, it cannot be too small not too large, the font must also relate with the visual communication that is presented on the direct-mail piece.
Benefits – Since direct mail is pure advertising, the piece must present the reader of the benefits of the product or service, this may include safety, image, discounts or incentives, sweepstakes, and conveniences.
Company logo – The Company s name, logo, or signature must be present in the direct-mail piece. In order to have success, the company must be recognized by the reader.
How To… – How to get the product, where to buy it, how much does it cost. All the necessary information that the reader needs. This can include: an 800 number, the name of store or mall, a web site address, or even a map of the participating retailer.
Future of Direct-Mail on the Internet
Direct-mail online or online-retailing , in which consumers use their computers to shop for products and make purchases has become a big business. Direct mail online is in its infancy, generating a meager total of $190 million in sales during 1998. Thus far, most vendors have not come up with the proper marketing mix for direct mail online. Establishing an appealing, functional Web site is considerable, ranging from $300,000 to $3 million or more.
However, as vendors gain online experience, it is expected that the effectiveness of the Web sites should improve as the cost decline. It is estimated that as many as 50 million potential buyers will be online within the next several years, most of them computer proficient and many of them with substantial buying power. For these reasons, the prospects for online retailing are bright, with predicted sales of around $30 billion for the 1999.
As a matter of fact, some of the largest commercial sites on the World Wide Web have agreed to feed information about their customer+s reading, shopping and entertainment habits into a new and improved database system. Which is now tracking the moves of more than 30 million Internet users, recording where they go, and what they read, often without the user s knowledge. This is primarily used for direct advertising, it promises to deliver precise, direct, and personalized ads, specifically for that target user. Even though this is said to be an invasion of privacy, many of the powerful commercial sites are using, selling, and distributing these consumer behaviors and information to numerous retailers, advertisers, and marketers for direct-advertising use. Many advertising and marketing experts believe that direct mail online is only in its early developmental stages.
What the future holds
Direct-mail advertising is an effective medium in advertising today. Changes are happening all the time. The biggest one being the Internet will change the way direct-mail advertising is approached. For now though, Companies will continue to use this medium and many others to target audiences for effective advertising.
Frequency measures of content factors in magazine and newspaper advertising: A. P. Rademeyer
Marketing: Etzel, Michael, J., Stanton, William, J., and Walker, Bruce, J.
Contemporary Advertising: Arens, William, F.
Recruiting Effects of Army Advertising: James N. Dertouzos, J. Michael Polich