1774 to Today: The History of Direct Mailing | Christina Motley LLC

1774 to Today: The History of Direct Mailing

Those advertisements you get in the mailbox each week that offer discounts and information on products can be both enticing and irritating. Many marketers claim that direct mailing is dead, however, average Americans receive 16 pieces of direct mail each week. While we know that businesses still follow this practice, most don’t understand where it came from.

Seen as the father of direct mailing, Benjamin Franklin sent out the first catalog for mail-in orders in 1774. This catalog promoted and sold technical and scientific books. Along with this, Benjamin Franklin offered the first guarantee for mail-ordering, stating that those who purchased from the catalog would have the same service as if they purchased from him face to face.

While Franklin is believed to be the first to send out a mail-order catalog, Aaron Montgomery Ward was the first to really use the idea to start selling merchandise that was also sold in department stores. This was in 1872, and was followed by Richard Sears in 1888.

 

Direct Marketing Association

In 1917, the Direct Marketing Association was created. This group is based in New York City and Washington, DC. The association was created to set standards and ethics for those who send out direct mailers. It was felt that this was needed to help keep track of companies that participate in direct marketing both in the right and wrong ways. Some of the things that the Direct Marketing Association still deals with are data collection, privacy, use of data, consumer notice and more.

 

Recent History

While it’s interesting to look at the history of direct mailing from hundreds of years ago, looking at how it’s worked over the last few decades is more important. This helps us see exactly what is happening with direct mailing. In 2005, this marketing practice was used by many charity organizations, resulting in about $200 billion from contributors.

In 2007, about 3.5 percent of the country’s gross national product was due to direct mailing. In 2012, this jumped to 8.7 percent. On top of this, the industry offers over 9.2 million jobs, making it a stable option and helpful to the economy.

 

Direct Mail in Today's Time | Christina Motley LLCA More Direct Approach

In the past, direct mailing was a broader, all-inclusive market. However, today it is changing. Because of the expense of mailing, as well as the environmental impact due to the number of trees that need to be cut to provide the paper for these mailers, marketers are becoming ever more vigilant about who mailers are sent to. Using focus groups, demographic information and other resources, these mailers are targeted toward specific people or groups. This allows marketers to get the information that they have to the people who actually need it.

Direct mailing has a long history. While some say that it is a dead practice, there is proof that it is not. Direct marketing with mailers helps a number of companies improve their sales and has a high Return on Investment (ROI). Make sure you’re not ignoring this critical marketing tool. 

 

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