Direct Mail By The Pound

Ben McConnell of Church of the Customer has made a yearly tradition of keeping all of the direct mail he receives during the holiday season — and putting it on a scale.

 This year: 21.5 pounds. Up over two pounds from last year, and a more-than-50 percent increase from 2005. His post gives some examples of other things that weigh about that much:

  • 9.75 kilograms
  • About the equivalent weight of three newborn babies (or quintuplets for one couple)
  • Two bowling balls and a tray of white russians
  • A bit more than the average weight of the handbags of some women (contributing to a 30% rise in purse-related injuries)
  • The weight of a scarily large catfish caught in Missouri last summer
  • And the comments section has a very interesting dialog about the subject, with intelligent arguments on both sides.

    My question, for those of you who’ve been using direct mail for years: 

    With an increase in postage costs and (at least anectdotally) a significant increase in mail volume, how did your direct mail efforts pencil out in 2007? Is it still working as well as it did?


    I’ve written a white paper called The Seven Deadly Advertising Mistakes and How to Fix Them. It’s a study of some of the most common ways that companies waste their advertising dollars — along with suggestions to make those dollars work harder and smarter. Request your free copy here.


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    4 thoughts on “Direct Mail By The Pound

    1. In such circumstances it is high time to start a business – a paper recycling factory! lol! if to be serious, i do not want to think about how much waste is produced and how much resource is sent down the drain…

    2. Research in the UK in 2007 showed that around half of direct mail campaigns failed to produce the desired response rate. The figure is not totally reliable because people are less likely to report failure than success, and many of the failed campaigns come from little firms who act more or less in isolation – and so don’t fill in questionnaires.

      Most of the campaigns that failed, failed NOT because the product being advertised was poor (indeed many firms that failed stressed that they had done well when exhibiting the product at a show, for example) . Rather it generally seemed to be because the people writing and designing the leaflet were utterly ignorant of the psychology of perception. This is the academic area of study which shows how the brain works when we look at a piece of paper – where the eye goes first, how the brain can be distracted from the message by a “grabby image” and so on.

      The problem is, it is an incredibly complex area – (the definitive web site – at least it is the one used in the UK – there might be a different one written for US mailers) – is fairly massive and complex. And that’s why firms waste money – they just pile in and do it themselves, without realising that there is a huge theoretical base behind successful direct mail.

    3. Good point, Tony. Those who are interested in learning more about the science behind direct mail would benefit greatly from exploring your site.

      Advertising — direct mail, radio, print — is one of those areas where lots of untrained people think they know what they’re doing.

      I am pleased to report that the guy who removed my right lung had to go to school for a long time before he was allowed to operate. By contrast, just about anyone can hang a shingle and call himself an advertising agency.

      The result is bad creative and a huge amount of wasted money and effort.