Today’s marketers have an amazing variety of digital and print communications tools at their disposal, some of which were barely possible just a few years ago. When it comes to grabbing the attention of prospects and creating delighted customers, though, there’s nothing like direct mail.

Why is that?

Why does this “old” medium achieve a whopping 5.1% response rate, according to the latest ANA-DMA Response Report? Higher than email, social, paid search – you name it.

There is no easy answer. Although it seems simple – ink on paper meets marketing techniques – why direct mail works is actually pretty complex.

In the 1960s, the marketer Ed Mayer set out this formula:

Success in direct marketing is 40% lists, 40% offers and 20% everything else.

The best marketers today know all about lists, which is why Mayer’s formula is still valid. Data is the king of marketing, after all. Segmentation has enabled brands to build a deeper understanding than ever before of their customers and prospects, and then target them based on demographic and behavioral factors.

But what about the other 60%? What offers, headlines, formats, images, etc. drive successful direct mail?

Direct mail is a largely secret medium. With little to no fanfare, mailers can test copy, offers, colors, package formats and designs, incentives, and much more. But unlike other types of advertising, they can more easily measure results. Ultimately, this is what separates a profitable mailing from the innovative and eye-catching mailings lauded by local advertising and marketing groups all the way up to the Caples and Echo Awards at the international level.

How Who’s Mailing What! was founded

For years, though, there was almost no deep analysis of what was truly working in direct mail. That changed with the founding of Who’s Mailing What! by copywriter and author Denny Hatch.

In 1980, Hatch attended a Direct Mail Writer’s Guild luncheon in New York where the featured speaker was Dorothy Kerr, Circulation Director of U.S. News & World Report. Kerr advised:

If you want to be successful in direct mail, you have to know who’s mailing what and track which mailings come in over and over again. These are the controls—the hugely profitable money-makers that are making marketers rich. Save them, study them and “STEAL SMART!

Inspired, he began collecting direct mail, analyzing it, tracking it, and making it available (from 8 filing cabinets) to friends – fellow copywriters and marketers. Beginning in October 1984, he started a print newsletter and archive service that made the samples available to a larger audience, as well as provided the only in-depth record of what was being mailed in America. In 1992, the newsletter (later Inside Direct Mail) and the archive were acquired by North American Publishing Co. (now NAPCO Media LLC), which ran them for 25 years.

Starting in 2019, Who’s Mailing What! was relaunched by Wyzoo Marketing Intelligence. Wyzoo helps direct mail marketing companies, agencies, and data vendors improve the results of their marketing campaigns by helping them maximize their data. We will able to extract a variety of insights from the mail, such as:

  • Colors
  • Non-Human Image Objects
  • Human Image Objects (Age, Gender, Ethnicity)
  • Image Sentiment
  • Text Sentiment (and/or emotion)
  • Most Responsive Phrases
  • Dominant Offers: Discount, Free, Free Shipping, etc.
  • Fonts

With these learning advancements, you can make better marketing decisions, ones that result in better ROI, stronger insights, and improved agility.

What Who’s Mailing What! includes

It’s already been stated but it can’t be repeated enough: data drives direct marketing today. The amount of information that’s available at your fingertips is staggering. But remember Mayer’s 40-40-20 rule? Data only means something if you can get the most possible from it by identifying a target market that is perfect for your product or service. When you know who your audience is, you can create direct mail that aligns with their demographics and characteristics.

This is where Who’s Mailing What! shines.

Who’s Mailing What! includes thousands of direct mail samples from thousands of companies and nonprofits that were mailed in the United States from 1984 to the present. It represents tens of millions of dollars in testing by thousands of marketers who mailed them and billions in revenue by the companies that sold these products and services.

With a subscription to Who’s Mailing What!, you get access to high-resolution PDFs organized by 21 major categories and over 84 subcategories.

Every month, hundreds of direct mail examples are added in:

  • Arts
  • Construction
  • Consumer goods
  • Consumer services
  • Business Services
  • Business Products
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Entertainment
  • Finance
  • Internet Services & Telecommunications
  • Health Care
  • Manufacturing
  • Media & Publishing
  • Nonprofit
  • Public Administration
  • Real Estate
  • Recreation & Travel
  • Restaurants
  • Retail
  • Shipping & Logistics

Why Who’s Mailing What! is so valuable

Let’s face it: there are days when you need some inspiration to meet your marketing challenges. Who’s Mailing What! helps you ask new questions, find different answers, and consider possibilities that result in direct mail ideas that make your job easier.

In our all-in-one platform, you can:

  1. find breakthrough copy & design ideas
  2. see what offers work in any industry
  3. monitor your industry
  4. choose the right format
  5. research & tag key companies and competitors
  6. identify potential new clients and new markets for your services
  7. discover marketing trends
  8. save searches

And for your subscription, you get so much more than information – you get to keep up to 100 mailings a month for yourself!

No matter what plan you choose, you’ll be able to download thousands of direct mail samples to your computer, tablet, or smartphone. And as new mailings are added each month, you’ll have access to new ideas at your fingertips. You’ll see what’s selling – copy – designs – headlines – envelope teaser copy – personalization – offers – premiums – and much, much more.

The most successful mail: The Grand Controls

Speaking of selling, you’ll also be able to search on mailings that continue to be mailed for several months with no changes (or maybe only minor ones). These control mailings work in driving more response than efforts that are tested against them.

In 1991, Denny Hatch noticed that some controls last for a very long time. Upon the suggestion of German direct mail guru Axel Andersson, he decided to designate any control mailing seen for more than three years as a “Grand Control”. In the years since, over 1,600 of the best direct mail marketing campaigns have reached this level of distinction, and they can all be found by searching on that option on the website.

They’re not always pretty to look at. But they are unique, the end product of lots of testing and hard work from gifted marketers.

But among them are:

  • Winning sales letter examples
  • Successful fundraising appeals
  • Classic samples from the greatest copywriters of all time
  • Outstanding envelopes, postcards, and folded self-mailers

These are marketing gold, well worth studying!

Start Big, Then Move Smaller

Who’s Mailing What! makes it easy to explore, review, and save the best direct mail creative samples for your own idea inspiration.

When you log in to the website, you can get to work with a “Quick Search” of mailings in the database at the top of your Dashboard. It’s pretty simple:

  1. Type a word or group of words
  2. Choose Companies or Alltext as the search fields
  3. Select a date range
  4. Click the Search button.

Depending on what variables you choose, you may get a lot of results.

If so, it’s time to get granular.

You can narrow the listings by:

  • Date range
  • Categories (and subcategories)
  • Direct Mail filters (e.g., format type, controls, Grand Controls, personalization)

By the way, you also can save your exact search terms for re-running or changing at a later date as your needs arise.

The bottom line

Who’s Mailing What! is all about understanding the nuts and bolts of effective communication. The best-performing copy and creative elements can provide you with inspiration for devising compelling and response-driving campaigns in both digital and print media for any audience.

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  • Avatar
    Josh C. Manheimer
    Posted June 1, 2020 at 8:30 am 0Likes

    I’ve won several Axel Andersson awards from you guys! The most famous, I believe, was for a Rodale package for EVERYDAY HEALTH HINTS. My beloved (and now deceased) graphic designer, David Wise, helped me create what became the most successful direct mail package in the history of Rodale’s book division. Denny Hatch wrote, “The [Trigger] mailing is brilliant. But Manheimer & Wise did not accomplish this breakthrough using the CPP (Clean Piece of Paper) approach. Rather, they astutely built on proven techniques, some radical, others traditional—devised for Rodale by some of America’s greatest copywriters.” I assume you can still find the legendary control buried in the database somewhere — even though it’s three decades old. (It was also featured in THE WORLD’S GREATEST DIRECT MAIL SALES LETTERS, so you guys really do provide access to the best of the best. Thanks for keeping the flame lit!)

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