As consumers, we are often bombarded by different types of advertisements each day. Whether its 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 70s 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 junk-mail, 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 internets 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. 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 such ads decide in 4 seconds whether to discard or open it (Etzel, Stanton, and Walker 492).
During the 1950s and early 1960s, 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, disseminate, store, and retrieve information for use in making marketing decisions (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 markets 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 1980s, direct-mail advertising accelerated as an important medium for advertisers, as well as people running for office. Richard Parkert, a direct-mail consultant to Democrats (and an activists from the 1960s), looks upon the medium as todays underground press (Nelson 296).
Growth of Direct-Mail Direct mail is successful because it matches todays lifestyles; families have less time, so shopping by mail is more convenient. It is the most effective way to generate immediate results, since it is addressed directly to the prospect. Todays leading mail-order products include insurance and financial services, department store merchandise, and many other services. Another reason for the global success of direct-mail advertising, is the fact that this type of medium can increase the effectiveness of ads in other media.
For instance, advertisers do not send un-solicited 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. Direct-mail advertising is also the fastest-growing medium today. Since many large companies have down-sized during the past, many people are working more and more hours.
Furthermore, people also have busy schedules and involved in many activities such as: continuing education, personal fitness, and other professional or civic activities. Thus, having less time to go out and shop for themselves. Direct-mail advertising then came into the picture by providing consumers with convenience by having the product, service, or idea come to them. 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 $27 billion on direct mail in 1994, thats nearly 20 percent of all the ad dollars spent in the United States (Arens 440). Thus, making direct-mail advertising the third ranked advertising medium used today, surpassed only by television 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.
Another innovative use of direct-mail advertising through the Internet is again, the database. This form of technology is widely used by direct marketers, who maintain lists of their specific consumers and web-surfers. Through the use of the database, marketers can now maintain an informative list of their consumers. However, marketers are often reluctant to maintain their databases in the Internet, because they claim that it is too complicated and time consuming.