I’m trying to understand Direct Marketing, January 22, 1993

Learning the basics of direct mail can be as simple as taking a look in your mailbox and studying what you find there.  As I discovered recently, despite my years in the direct marketing industry, I can be just another eager prospect when an intriguing envelope shows up in my mail.

Basic direct mail rule number one: the courtship for a customer begins or fails with the envelope.

In my case, I was enticed by a closed face (no window) 6 x 9″ white envelope, properly addressed to my office in Markham, apparently, by good old-fashioned typewriter…not really, but a very good facsimile. I was immediately impressed that my name was spelled properly (no hyphens). Further, it included the politically sensitive salutation of “Ms”.

So far, so good.

Now, there were a couple of dead give-aways that this was not a birthday card from Aunt Sadie. First, the postage. Not a first class stamp. Nor, on the other hand, a pre-printed bulk rate indicia. It was metered for bulk rate at twenty and a half cents and post marked Ottawa.

Second give-away was the return addressee–“The Honourable Barbara McDougall, P.C., M.P.”–definitely not Aunt Sadie.

But, I was still interested. Why?

The envelope had accomplished a couple of things. It had established credibility through the use of good quality personalization. Although it wasn’t stamped, being metered gave the perception of better quality than a pre-printed indicia. Plus, it did look as though there was a real letter inside. And, from one of our nation’s notables, no less. So, I opened it.

Primary mission accomplished. Get the envelope opened.

Sure enough, it was a letter , again, properly, personally addressed.

Lost it a little with “Dear Mr. Gruchy”, but, I was willing to allow that a computer couldn’t figure out my two part surname.

The nice, hefty, buff-coloured paper could reasonably pass for Barbara’s official, everyday letterhead. Two, single-spaced pages were printed, one side only, in the, now familiar, pseudo-typewriter style. (One might argue that printing both sides saves wasted paper, postage and promotes environmental consciousness, but that’s another column).

You know what’s great about political mailings? No expense is spared. You get to experience the epitome of direct mail execution–all the things we’d all love to do but can’t ever afford.

And, what a letter!

“The Prime Minister and a small leadership group of The 500–a prestigious group of generous Party supporters from across Canada–have asked me to recommend several individuals for membership in The 500.

I consider it a special honour and privilege to recommend you to the Prime Minister.

The 500 membership is designed exclusively for key Canadian men and women who are leaders in their business and professional fields, as well as in their communities.”

There are those who might now argue that the role of the letter in a direct mail package has changed and can be down-played or eliminated. However, there are also many more vastly-experienced practitioners who insist that a well-written and executed letter is still essential to getting good response. And, they’ve proved it.

Did my letter qualify so far?

For starters, with the nation’s leader running a distant third in popularity polls, most likely 85% of those who opened the envelope threw the whole thing away after reading the first three words, so, I think, the opener could have been better thought out.

But, setting political sentiments aside, was it a good direct mail letter? Yes, provided the recipient was susceptible to somewhat saccharine forms of flattery. I must confess, I did read it with some interest–and, that’s the point–get the letter read, and your story told. But, there’s more to it than just that.

What totally blew it for me was the next sentence: “You are certainly recognized as such a leader in Western Canada.” Oops!

A direct marketer’s classic nightmare!

As with so much in life, in direct mail, it’s the little things that count. Murphy is always at work and he gets more help than he ever needs from that chronic computer virus called “human error.”

Direct mail lesson number four hundred and thirty-two (The one that’s only ever really learned the hard way): Check, check, double check, triple check, up, down and sideways. And, in this case, run live samples to check that whatever triggered “Western Canada” (probably the postal code) printed “Southern Ontario” , “Toronto Area” or whatever it was supposed to, correctly.

Untold dollars (of our money) had been spent on creative, mailing lists, printing, computer time, mail preparation, and postage. And, for what? To blow all that credibility, prestige and flattery I had soaked up higher than a hot air balloon.

So, what happened to the eager prospect next?

After a good laugh, I read on. Why? Because I still wanted to know what it was all about. Would anyone who’s not in the direct mail business? I doubt it.

Next came some background on The 500, which, according to the letter, is actually 1,500 people (That’s Ottawa-style counting, I guess). Then, an appeal to the future of my children and grandchildren (I don’t have any). And, an attempt to justify the “courage and strength” it takes to make the PC Government’s “unpopular decisions” under Brian Mulroney. This was based on the notion of being “right for our nation…our people and…our future.”

Finally, it got to the point.

Turned out the purpose of the letter was to soften me up to receive a “formal invitation ” from the big chin himself!

Just to make sure I got the point, there was also an enclosed, personalized card announcing my nomination for membership. Such was the quality of the piece, I expected to find small print somewhere saying “Keepsake, suitable for framing”.

I now knew this was going to be more than a one-night stand and I could look forward to a prolonged courtship.

Ten days went by.

This time the envelope was closed face, business size. Again, “typewriter” personalization of my name, a return address on “Slater Street, Ottawa, and first class, metered postage.

Inside: “It has come to my attention that a letter…erroneously identified you as a resident of Western Canada”. I knew that!

The next sentence spoke legions: “Mrs. McDougall was informed immediately of our error and was disappointed that her message was incorrectly presented.” Signed: “Brian O’N. Gallery, The National Chairman, The 500.”

Wait a minute, wasn’t that her letter? Who was this guy? I’d never heard of him. Why wasn’t Barbara doing her own apologizing?

So, now there was additional expense for another mailing, but the thought didn’t count for squat. Why?

The basic lesson missed, and it applies not only to direct mail, is the best and proven approach to damage control. Have the “courage and strength” to make an “unpopular decision” to face the music head on. Remember Tylenol!

The letter went on to express regret and encourage me to “give every consideration” to Mrs. McDougall’s letter (too late) and the PM’s invitation.

I could hardly wait.

Another four days went by. Then came a closed face, buff stock, business size envelope, personalized, metered at twenty cent bulk rate, addressee “The Right Honourable”, himself. Inside: letterhead, complete with gold-embossed Parliament Hill, two pages, one-sided, single-spaced.

“Dear Mr de Gruchy: One of the finest Cabinet Ministers ever from Ontario, the Honourable Barbara McDougall, has nominated you for membership in The 500…” No comment.

The letter went on to extol the virtues of the PC party and exclusivity of The 500; blamed our economic woes on past governments and “the chaos they left behind”; mentioned that ” The 500 members…will be key to moving our renewal agenda forward and to winning the next election.”…blah, blah, blah.

Enough, already. What was in it for me?

The seventh veil finally dropped on page two, paragraph five: “Your contribution of $1,000 or more…will give our organizers the political tools they need now to build a winning campaign.”

That wasn’t all.

There was another personalized, invitation-like card requesting the favour of a reply. And, a personalized RSVP form (with French language option). And, a postage pre-paid, cheque-sized reply envelope. And, the pièce de resistance, a slick, gold-embossed-plus-special-colour-PC-blue brochure outlining the virtues of The 500 which “requires” a “personal contribution” of $1,000 per year.”

And, here I was all set up to think they wanted me for my “leadership”!

But, there was a meager sop for my injured pride: “Your membership fee may be partly returned to you in the form of a $450 tax credit.” Oh, joy!

Final direct mail lesson for today.

This is the 90’s. Perceptions have shifted.

Successful appeals only to power, prestige and one-upmanship have gone the way of Michael Milliken and friends.

If you want money, say so, and why–simply, clearly, without wasting time or paper.

If you’re selling something, talk about yourself, your company and your product only in terms of direct benefit to your prospect.

And, please, if you make a mistake, don’t look for a fall guy or waste more paper and postage.

Imagine if Brian’s letter had begun: “Sorry, we blew it…” Wouldn’t it have fostered a much more positive impression? Then again, in his case, maybe not!

Losing and keeping customers Strategy Magazine April 10, 1994

Customer attrition is a lot like dandruff–by the time you realize you have the problem, it’s already too late to prevent it. Unless, in the case of lapsed customers, you’ve built a predictive model based on measurable characteristics of lapsed customers which can be identified among current customers.

The notion of value in keeping the customers you have versus constantly acquiring new ones is certainly not a new one, but you’d never know it to look around. Awhile ago I wrote a column about switching away from a hair salon I’d been faithful to for about ten years. Have I heard a boo, halloo of any kind? Not a whisper. Let’s see–ten years times fifty to sixty dollars a visit times twelve visits per year–that adds up to about six or seven thousand dollars they won’t be getting over the next ten years.

Meanwhile, the constant hunt is on for new customers…also known as the revolving door. In most companies, 30-50% of customers who appear to be new are actually lapsed customers who have re-surfaced incognito. Not because they’re coy and tryng to avoid being recognized, but because, as marketers, we’ve failed to keep them when we had the chance. And, to add insult to injury, we don’t even know they’re back.

The trick is to get in front of them. before they leave or, at least, to do something about it when they go. But, why does it seem so difficult? It must be difficult, otherwise wouldn’t there be a multitude of examples of well-focused reactivation activities I could tell you about. Here’s the closest I could get:

Recently, an acquaintance received the following missive from CITIBANK. The letter went like this: “It has recently come to our attention that you are leaving less funds on deposit with us. We are very concerned that this may be an indication of some dissatisfaction you have experienced with our service. Our goal is to provide our valued customers, like yourself with the best possible service and be bank of choice for all your financial needs. It appears that we may have fallen short of this goal with you and we very much what to know how we can correct the situation. I have enclosed my business card for your reference and I will be giving you a call to discuss any financial needs which we may have failed to satisfy for you.” Now, other than a little grammatical awkwardness, you might say that ain’t bad at all. Rather thoughtful with overtones of mea culpa. Refreshing coming from a bank.

But, now picture this. This letter was received by an elderly widow living alone who, for the first time in her life, has a significant investment account to worry about. Key words…to worry about. This letter made her worry. This letter upset her. The letter was from a bank. Banks are serious stuff. It sounded as though there was a problem. Whose problem was it? Hers or the bank’s? What should she do about it? Needless to say, it didn’t help that the Branch Manager never made good on the promise to call and follow up.

 Charles de Gruchy remembers how it was

Relationship marketing…is it relevant Strategy Magazine January 06, 1999

I get a lot of mail. Probably because I go out of my way to get mail. But, I can count on one hand the number of commmunications I’ve ever received that you might call “relationship building”. Sure, I’ve had lots of newsletters and sample packs and special offers and shiny plastic cards and mailings trying to sell me more stuff.

But, remember we’re now dealing with consumers who are reducing the contents of their wallet to one piece of plastic and spending more time thinking about how to cheat on the next round of tax grabs rather than figuring out how many points it will take to “earn” a new set of tires?  Think about it. What’s the key to a good relationship? For starters, there’s the issue of what kind of relationship the two of you want. And, isn’t it also about conducting yourselves in a way that is relevant to what you’ve agreed the relationship will be?

I’ve often used the following bell curve to illustrate the different points in the “lifeycle” of customers during their tenure with a company. The relationship they have with you depends on where they “live” on the curve at any point in time. In a multi-product or services environment, a customer could be living at multiple stages. The problem is that most companies treat all customers the same. The solid line represents the current value of customers. The dotted line represents the objectives in targeting communications to each stage.

Here are some simplified examples of customer communications that address the stages on the curve. I don’t know about you but I’ve never received letters like these:

  1. Activation–

“Dear New Customer–

Thank you for selecting your new XYZ product model. We hope it performs to your satisfaction and you enjoy it for many years to come. Please remember that if you have any difficulty of any kind all you have to do is call 1-800-###-#### at any time. ”

That’s it. No sales pitch on more products, no special offers, no envelope bulging with irrelevant paper.

  1. Grooming–

“Dear New Customer (who matches the profile of your best customers)

(Starts with the same first paragraph, as above).

It might interest you to know that, along with the XYZ product you purchased, we offer a complete XYZ family of products. We’d be happy to send you more information about them. Just give us a call any time at (the same toll-free number) or return the enclosed postage paid postcard”

This way the customer let’s you know whether they want those glossy brochures…instead of wasting money (and trees) just mailing them out.

  1. Maintenance/Loyalty–

“Dear Best Customer

Thank you! We really appreciate the business you’ve given us over the past year (or six months or five years or whatever relevant time frame). To show our appreciation, we invite you to accept the enclosed gift (no strings attached and it’s not a coupon). You’re also invited to receive the following Best Customer benefits for the next 12 months. (Here’s where you can profitably give away all those goodies you’ve been wasting on the undeserving masses–newsletters, special services, gift with purchase offers, etc.–go ahead be generous). Only people like you, who have spent $500 per month for the past five years (or whatever you calculate as the appropriate criteria) will be eligible to receive these special offers and services. Because we only want to give these benefits to customers, like yourself, who truly deserve special attention, we invite you to call 1-800-###-#### today to let us know what you think of the Club and its benefits.”

Don’t you think this might get a customer’s attention better than one more tedious points program for everybody giving away nothing but margin in the end? And, what a great way to gather positive customer comments for future use in testimonials.

  1. Retention–

“Dear Customer (who matches the profile of best customers who’ve stopped buying at this point in their tenure)

Thank you! We really appreciate the business you’ve given us over the past “x” period of time. We hope you’ve enjoyed being part of our Best Customer Club and we hope you want to keep your special privileges. Remember, only people who have spent $500 per month for the past five years (or bought from you 35 times and spent at least $100 every time–or whatever you calculate as the profitable criteria) are eligible to receive the special offers and services in our Best Customer Club. To show our appreciation for your past business, please accept the enclosed special offer (this time it is an incentive to buy again) which you can use any time before (deadline date). If there’s any other way we can be of service, we’d love to hear from you at 1-800-…”

By the way, I’m curious whether any one else out there had the same problem recently as a friend of mine. He received a fancy new plastic card in the mail from Petrocan. He promptly, cut up his old Petrocan credit card (Isn’t that you’re supposed to do?) and next day found himself in the embarassing position of trying to pay for gas with a points program card. Why would any company (unless it also likes to burn money) decide it needed a separate points card for its credit card customers?

Charles de Gruchy remembers how it was

Definition of database marketing DM News June 22, 1996

When a prominent national newspaper tells us something, we usually tend to pay attention, don’t we? And, when an authoritative columnist speaks, we are equally compelled to usually believe them. So, when, under these circumstances, we are told that packaged goods companies are turning away from database marketing as a strategy because it’s too expensive it must be so. And, further, when one of those companies named is a mighty brewer, surely we must hoist a glass in gratitude for the enlightenment shed upon us. Mustn’t we?

But, wait. What’s that wee small voice I hear? A murmur of dissent? A whisper of protest? “But, they weren’t using database marketing,” hisses the chorus. “Oh, but they were collecting thousands of names through this really cool and innovative CD-ROM give-away coupon transit contest survey billboard premium promotion they were doing,” rejoins the prominent columnist, “And, you could even enter the contest on the internet. But, then the company was sending out mailings to all those names and found that it was just too expensive and that’s really why they’ve stopped using database marketing.”

In his book, Voltaire’s Bastards–The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, John Ralston Saul in an enlightening chapter called “Life in a Box–Specialization and the Individual” talks about the problems of language in communication “One of the specialist’s most successful discoveries was that he could easily defend his territory by the simple development of a specialized language incomprehensible to non experts”. In other words, is it possible that non-traditional database marketers are not being well-served by the self-styled experts in the field?

If so, is it any wonder then that companies are announcing that they’re stopping using it because it’s too expensive and doesn’t work when they’ve never had help to understand what the terminology “database marketing” really means ? For most, it seems, including our prominent columnist, database marketing is “direct mail” by any other name or as newspapers invariably put it “junk mail”. I wonder if that’s because it has to compete for space in the blue box with the mounds of “junk news”? But, I digress. Back to the point. The point is definition.

What is direct marketing? An interactive system of marketing which uses one or more advertising media to effect a measurable response and/or transaction at any location.

What is database marketing? Database marketing is using the information you have about your individual customers’ and prospects’ actual behaviours and purchases to profitably match the products and services you offer with the ongoing needs and wants of your customers and prospects. If that sounds circular, it is. The success of true database marketing is all about closing the loop…and, further, being able to put profitability dollar signs on the value of doing so. Ideally, this information is all kept in a marketing database, an organized collection of selected data about individual customers and prospects that is accessible and actionable for marketing purposes. It is much, much, much, more than a mailing list even with the addition of a few answers to survey questions!

Recently a large multinational soft drink company announced an exciting new database marketing program where people can collect points every time they purchase the product which can then be redeemed for clothing bearing the mighty drink logo. In the course of this transaction, the customer’s name will be gathered and further exciting and wonderful things will no doubt be coming their way if they will only keep an eye on their mail.

Is this database marketing? The mighty soft drink company seems to think so. Your first reaction might be that it’s just one more creative way to turn an entire customer base into walking advertisements for the product and at the customer’s expense no less?  Or, is it just another slick sales promotion? Or is it just a very expensive way to build a mailing list to which very expensive direct mail packages will be churned out under the guise of building loyalty and customer relationship. Why, then, will I not be surprised when in 12 months or less another solemn announcement is made that database marketing is too expensive and doesn’t work.

All I can say to both the mighty brewer, the mighty soft drink company and their cohorts in consumer marketing is, be sure you know that what you’re announcing because if it doesn’t work as well as what you started doing in the first place your customers won’t let you go back!

 Charles de Gruchy remembers how it was

Avoiding Targeting Traps 04/27/2000


I’ve said before that paying attention to what you receive in the mail can yield some very practical illustrations of direct marketing do’s and don’ts. A recent example showed up in my mail to prove the maxim that there’s only one thing worse than not pinpointing your target audience. That is missing the mark in your communications to that audience.

The mailer was Jaguar Canada. The target audience was women. How did I know?

For starters, the mailing was addressed to me rather than the resident male of the household who is the usual recipient of automotive promotions.

Unfortunately, it all got off on the wrong foot. The closed face envelope, response piece and letter were all beautifully laser personalized to Mr. de Gruchy. For the mailer’s sake, I hope this was a fluke. If not, Ms. Smith Susan, Ms. Jones Sally, etc., along with me, now have a similarly distorted view of Jaguar Canada.

The brochure, the first piece out of the envelope gave it completely away that the mailing was aimed at women …”The Romance” was the heading on the first panel, not exactly the phrase one would choose to stop a man in his tracks over a car. Not to mention the opening lines of the letter: “If you’ve ever yearned for a Jaguar–for the mystique and celebrated performance of this legendary automobile–the moment of surrender is here. Now and for a limited time, we’re offering you a number of seductive reasons to lease a new 1994 Jaguar.” There was more, much more.. The brochure went on from there with “The Engagement” on the second panel and “The Honeymoon” on the third. “The Proposal” was, of course, the lick-n-stick postage paid response piece.

Other than having the usual progression of romantic events a little out of chronological order, I really hope this whole exercise was based on Jaguar (or their agency) having conducted, at least, some focus group research on the creative.

My own initial reaction? That, overall, the package was more appropriate for a chocolate fudge cake mix than a luxury car.

To test my theory, I conducted a survey of my own. I showed the package to several female friends and colleagues, some of whom could buy several Jaguars with this month’s pocket money if they wanted to and several who couldn’t and, probably, wouldn’t even if they could. To a woman, there was only one thing about the package that was of any interest, attraction or emotional appeal. The offer. “The Honeymoon Lease” offer…the first month of the lease “courtesy of Jaguar Canada” (I guess “FREE” was considered too crass). On top of that there was the “Dream Guarantee”…30 days in which to “fall hopelessly in love” or drive back for a full refund. After the offer, most of my researchees wanted to know more about the car.

Of course, you could send back the reply card to get more information, thereby, putting yourself forever on another mailing list.

But, other than more juicy adjectives wrapped around the dashboard and the leather seats all you learned in this package was that 1994 enhancements include passenger-side air bag, improved sound proofing, more safety features–and improved reliability. One of my victims (who has deep pockets and loves Jaguars) really picked up on the last point because the only reason she doesn’t drive a Jaguar is due to a perception of poor reliability and “improvement” wasn’t enough for her.

She wants superlative  reliability.

What does all this say? Quite simply that you must seek to understand your target audience, their needs, wants and wishes before you seek to communicate with them. Speak the language of your audience instead of falling back on a stereotypical approach that neither appeals to that audience in the real world or enhances your product. And I don’t think, in this day-and-age, that a manipulative Gothic novel approach will sell cars to an adult female audience. For Jaguar’s sake, I hope I’m wrong.


Painless loyalty

Also this month, I received a mailing from Action Window Cleaners who I’ve used for the last couple of years. Here we are in April, the winter grunge on the windows is annoyingly blocking the spring sunshine and “bingo” here’s a hand-addressed mailing telling me what work I had done last year and how much it cost. All I have to do is tick the boxes on the postage paid reply card to choose what week I want to book and someone will call me to set an appointment. And, on top of it all, I’ll pay exactly the same price as last year. Just goes to show an effective loyalty program doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming.

Charles de Gruchy remembers how it was

What is Direct Marketing. Direct Marketing Strategy, August 15, 1993

Like opening Pandora’s box (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandora%27s_box), putting the question “What is direct marketing?” to those who call themselves “direct marketers” unleashes myriad definitions and points of view. In fact, is it an industry? Is it a strategy? Is it a marketing tactic? Just what is this “thing” that takes the various shapes and methods of traditional mail order, catalogues, outbound and inbound telemarketing, computer bulletin boards, TV shopping channels, late-night infomercials etc., etc. In contemplating the question, it seemed the best way to come up with a definitive answer was to ask those people who work with “it” every day.

John Gustavson (http://www.the-cma.org/newsroom), President of the Canadian Direct Marketing Association says ” Direct marketing is a marketing technique that allows the consumer or business to respond directly to the supplier of goods or services from offers presented by mail, telemarketing, direct response print or broadcast advertising.” His answer flagged one of the key ingredients of direct marketing–“respond directly”.
A more succinct definition came from Brent Hollister (https://ca.linkedin.com/in/brenthollister), Vice President, Catalogue for Sears Canada Inc. “A selling technique designed to generate an immediate response from a customer for a product or service.” Yes, direct marketing is definitely a selling technique and one that is growing quickly as a look in your mailbox will illustrate.

Had we reached a true definition, yet? There was the reply from Dave Taylor (http://strategyonline.ca/1997/07/21/16736-19970721/), Chairman of Taylor-Tarpay Direct Advertising, “In my opinion, direct marketing is rewarding, frustrating, misunderstood, misused, too often misdirected, complicated, simple, challenging and fun!” Yes, and so is training ducks to walk on water., but had we’ve yet to reach a consensus Taylor then went on to add, “Direct marketing is, above all, an approach to marketing communications that has to involve the objective of producing immediate, measurable response to a communications message in one or more media.” That’s better, “measurable response”, the one element totally unique to the discipline of direct marketing.

But the conundrum continued when Brian Fetherstonhaugh (http://www.ogilvy.com/About/Ogilvy-and-Mather-Board/Brian-Fetherstonhaugh.aspx), President of Ogilvy & Mather Direct quoted from Drayton Bird’s book “Commonsense Direct Marketing” Acknowledging that common sense is the most uncommon thing of all…according to Drayton Bird direct marketing is “any communication or marketing activity which creates or exploits a direct relationship with your customer as an individual”. Finding notions of exploitation a little controversial, let’s choose the key words–“relationship” and “customer as an individual”.

What happens when you put these key words together? Direct marketing is a selling technique that produces a direct, measurable response and forms a relationship with customers as individuals.”

At the end of the day, it would appear that we were close to answering the question, until Peter Case (http://strategyonline.ca/1999/10/25/27041-19991025/), Vice President, Advertising, Royal Bank of Canada decided to throw a spanner in the works, when he said, “Maybe direct marketing is the commercial equivalent to a dating service!

When all is said and done, it would seem that what my colleagues, collectively, are saying is that direct marketing is a method of marketing, using various media, that matches products or services with appropriate customers who have an identified need for the product or service in a manner that the customer will respond to directly and that the marketer can use to collect information about that customer’s behaviours in order to offer continued, personalized communications and form a longer-term mutually satisfactory relationship.

Sound like a marriage made in heaven? You bet. Does it also look as though the answer to the question is long-winded, complex and about as easy to explain as why you left your car in the airport parking lot and took a taxi home? Right, again!

Bryan Weaver, Director, List Management, Harlequinn Enterprises Ltd., summed it up  best when he said, “Direct marketing is the marketing idea for the future. While it is an old form of marketing dating back, at least, to Benjamin Franklin’s time, modern technology and the terrific time pressures on today’s consumers, combine to make “it” the ideal method of selling for the ’90’s!” We should add to Bryan’s reasoning the high costs of mass advertising for ill-defined returns on investment, increasingly knowledgeable  and demanding consumers and the ever-present desire of human beings in an over-crowded world to be treated as distinct individuals. And, however difficult to define “it” might be, it would appear that the time for direct marketing has come.

Give it time and everything old can be new again! 06/27/2000

Almost everywhere you look these days feverish activity and expenses are going into the effort of getting to know individual customers. Very often, particularly for packaged goods marketers, the first challenge is simple identifying those individual customers. For many years, aggregate research data and share of market measurements have served to provide adequate information to stay ahead of competition and build continuing growth. But, no more. In a market environment that is not only segmented but downright fragmented, capturing, analyzing and acting on individual customer information is quickly become the “price of entry”

I have a McCall’s magazine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCall%27s dated March 1931. Virtually every ad includes a direct response offer of some kind. Back in the 1920’s and 30’s, packaged goods in the form of recognizable national brands were just beginning to gain a foothold in the “modern” North American household. The objective of that day was to get potential customers to give these wonderful new products a first-time trial. An interesting by-product was the concurrent capture of customer names and addresses. Putting priority on today’s objective of capturing (and retaining) prospective customers, I thought it might be fun to go back and take a look at how it was done…way back when. And all without a single 1-800 number!

  1. Free (or almost free) Samples
  • Pond’s Cold Cream www.ponds.com – send ten cents for Pond’s four preparations.
  1. Free Information


  • Bristol Myers www.bms.com/ – send for the free booklet “To Clarice in quest of her youth” which explains the many benefits of Sal Hepatica,
  • General Foods Jell-O en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jell-O– free Complete Jell-O Recipe Book” and the new Lime Flavor Jell-o Booklet. Enclose twenty-five cents to receive six individual molds,
  • Corn Products Refining Company www.ingredion.com/about-us/history/ Mazola Salad Oil – send ten cents in stamps or coin for your copy of “The Modern Method of Preparing Delightful Foods”,
  • Colgate www.colgate.com – free tube of Ribbon Dental Cream with booklet “How to Keep Teeth and Mouth Healthy”,
  • Sunkist Orange Juice www.sunkist.com – send for free copy of “Feeding the Child for Health”
  • Cutex Nail Polish www.cutexnails.com – send twelve cents for the Cutex Manicure Set containing sufficient preparations for six complete manicures.
  • The Quaker Oats Company www.quakeroats.com – send for free booklet “The Truth About Bran”
  • Clark Grave Vault  http://www.clarkvault.com/clark/index.cfm – ask for booklet “A Modern Interpretation of Age-Old Reverence”. It answers every question you may wish to ask concerning the Clark Grave Vault and tells why distinguished families invariably select the Clark
  1. Other Incentive
  • Wood bury’ Facial Soap http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodbury_Soap_Company  – send ten cents for a trial cake of soap and samples of two Creams and Face Powder. Plus request for counsel (tick boxes) on oily skin; coarse pores; dry skin; blackheads; wrinkles; sallow skin; flabby skin; pimples
  • Lambert Pharmacal – Listerine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Listerine  – send four cents in stamps and the wrapper of a Listerine bottle for a mounted print of the cute kids illustrated in the ad
  • The Cream of Wheat Corporation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cream_of_Wheat  – Free – a wonderful child’s game. All children lve the H.C.B. Club with a secret meaning. It makes a jolly game of their morning cereal. All the wonder working material is free–badges, gold stars and big new posters with stirring color pictures of childhood heroes–Joan of Arc, Roland and Oliver, Richard the Lion Hearted. We will also send valuable child health booklet. Plus tick box for sample of Cream of Wheat.
  • Eagle Brand Milk – http://www.eaglebrand.com/  – $25 for every recipe selected for use in cookbook. Get free booklet “New Magic in the Kitchen” when you enter
  • Max Factor – http://www.maxfactor-international.com/ – enclose ten cents for 48-page book “The New Art of Society Make-Up, personal complexionanalysis and make-up color harmony chart. Fill in color of eyes, lashes, hair, age. Tick off color and type of complexion

Did you pick up a few customer relationship building ideas? Consider testing response ads? See the benefit in adding value to the product through information?

There’s just one problem. Similar to the Ancient Mariner http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rime_of_the_Ancient_Mariner who lamented “Water, water everywhere,/Nor any drop to drink.”, the ancients among marketers of the 20’s and 30’s might have lived to moan, “Names, names everywhere,/Nor any did we keep!. Make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

Charles de Gruchy https://www.linkedin.com/in/charlesdegruchy remembers the way it was