Claude C. Hopkins wrote in Scientific Advertising in 1923, a short 87 years ago, “The severest test of an advertising man is in selling goods by mail. But that is a school from which he must graduate before he can hope for success. There cost and results are immediately apparent. False theories melt away like snowflakes in the sun. The advertising is profitable or it is not, clearly on the face of returns. Figures which do not lie tell one at once the merits of an advertisement.”
When Mr. Hopkins wrote this passage, he understood that even in 1923, during the Harding Administration, where prohibition was the law of the land and the roaring ‘20s were in full swing, that accountability was the missing piece of all advertising, with the exception of “selling goods by mail.” The advertising landscape has changed dramatically since Mr. Hopkins correctly identified the only accountable method of advertising. But one thing has not: Direct mail is still a fully accountable method of advertising.
How passé, how yesterday, how last year, how obsolete is this method of advertising? You may be surprised to learn that direct mail advertising has always been, and most likely will always be, the best channel of advertising with which to acquire new customers. David Ogilvy, whom many consider the father of modern advertising, wrote, “The proved principles of mail-order advertising should be applied to all campaigns. In mail-order advertising there is no palaver. There is no fine writing. There is no attempt at entertainment. There is nothing clever about good advertising. It is a question of common sense and obeying certain proved principles.”
In this modern-day era of email, social networking, satellite television, cable television and Wi-Fi, a stream of endless information, who is opening mail and reading it? The more you tell, the more you sell. A recent study conducted by Global Industry Analysts claims that global marketing expenditure through direct mail will reach $25.45 billion by 2015. The study also claims that direct mail is still the best way to reach your target audience. According to Experian, despite common preconceptions, 15-to-24-year-olds are highly receptive to direct mail and are the most likely demographic to purchase goods and services after having done research online.
Why then are so many high-tech companies reverting back to the tried-and-true accountability and success of direct mail campaigns? Why do companies print materials and pay to send them to homes or offices across the nation? Why hasn’t this form of advertising become obsolete with the ease and low cost of email? What is it about direct mail that fosters such great results, even in this super-information age?
Direct mail is personal. It comes directly to your mailbox and is intended for you. In this electronic age, people don’t have tactile things sent to them. They are bombarded with digital, video, electronic, audio, and billboard advertising. When they get home or to the office, and a piece of honest-to-goodness mail is placed in their mailbox or on their desk, it demands their attention. A direct mail piece is unlike other interruption marketing media. The direct mail piece is not screaming at you like the audio emanating from your radio is. The direct mail piece is not flashing bright lights at you like that banner ad on your monitor is. The direct mail piece is not flashing at you like the bright lights from your HDTV may be. Somehow, that direct mail piece is a kinder, gentler, piece of media that you can view when you feel like it. How often do you pick up your mail and set it aside to look at when you are ready to look at it? The direct mail piece demands your attention, but not in an ugly, interrupting way. The fact that the company who sent it took its time and spent its money on YOU may mean something to you. Direct mail is one of the most effective forms of advertising delivering more accountable return on your investment than any other advertising media.
A direct mail piece enables you to tell your customer more about your product without the time constraint. You aren’t rushing to explain it to your prospective customer in a 10-second sound bite, or a flashing banner on a web site. You don’t get one page turn in a magazine, you have the entire mail piece to properly tell your customer more about your product or service. The more you tell, the more you sell.
Direct mail enables you to reach the exact audience that you need to reach. Direct mail targeting has never been more precise, as professional direct mail marketers are able to strike your target with the precision of a heat-seeking pinpointed missile.
When two of the greatest minds to ever engage in and write about advertising agreed about direct mail advertising, it was with good reason. Direct mail advertising works. It worked in 1923, and it will work in 2023 for the same basic principles that Claude C. Hopkins and David Ogilvy observed. The more you tell, the more you sell.