Direct-Mail Advertising

As consumers, we are often bombarded by different types of advertisements each day. Whether it¹s by television, newspaper, or billboards, 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 70¹s clothing. That is because everytime we purchase products such as: electronics, computer software, and other products, direct-mail advertising is in the air. Everytime we send those warranties 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 ³junk-mail², somehow finds its way to our homes and businesses. Little that we know that as consumers, we are often pressed for time. Thus, direct-mail advertising is a convenient way for us to shop without having to leave the house.

In order to understand direct-mail advertising, I will be discussing this unique medium in a broad spectrum of subjects. Among them are: what direct-mail advertising is, the historical development of the medium, different methods and types of mail, the future of direct-mail advertising, and the internet¹s use of the medium for visual communication.

Direct Mail

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 ( among the thousands available 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 its received. Direct mail is pure advertising. ³Therefore, 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 such ads decide in 4 seconds whether to discard or open it² (Etzel, Stanton, and Walker 492).

Historical Development

During the 1950¹s and early 1960¹s, computers emerged to be common business tools. ³Marketers 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, disseminate, store, and retrieve information for use in making marketing decisions² (Etzel, Stanton, and Walker 77).

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. This computer-based procedure adds acceleration and versatility to the MkIS.

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 nucleus for all direct-marketers, because it has allowed them to narrow their specific target market by identifying the market¹s special interests, buying behavior, and purchasing power, to name a few.

With the developments of these three interrelated computer-strategically 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 1980¹s, direct-mail advertising accelerated as an important medium for advertisers, as well as people running for office. ³Richard Parkert, a direct-mail consultant to Democrats (and an activists from the 1960¹s), looks upon the medium as today¹s underground press² (Nelson 296).

Growth of Direct-Mail

Direct mail is successful because it matches today¹s lifestyles; families have less time, so shopping by mail is more convenient. It is the most effective way to generate immediate results, since it