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Mail Order Papers
By Col. Wm. C. Hunter. T is interesting to note the things the excellence of the mail order papers that actuate a man to spend money. as advertising mediums. The business man sees to it that he The advertiser in the city is prone to
gets thirty-six inches for a yard, six take his own likes and dislikes as teen ounces for each pound, when he buys measure for other people. He forgets things that can be measured or weighed. that the people in the country towns Yet in the matter of advertising he often have entirely different tastes, yet he goes it blind and spends thousands of places his advertising in the papers he dollars without going into the matter of himself reads, on the blind theory that analyzing the commodity he buys.
the publicity he gets is profitable to him. Within the last twenty years there The advertiser can not be too careful has grown up a class of publications about analyzing people and papers. I called mail order papers. These are have followed this mail order advertisweekly and monthly papers whose con ing business for over twenty years, and tents differ from the ordinary publica every day brings forth some new things; tions. These papers reach the great every week dispels some of the theories middle classes. They are not artistic in which have obtained in the past. their make-up. They do not appeal to An illustration in point-and it is a the man living in the city, and the won good one and well worth rememberingder of it is to many advertisers, how is in the case of a certain organ manuthese papers carry so much advertising, facturer: This manufacturer in the and how they have assumed such great zenith of his prosperity made 16,000 orimportance in the advertising world. gans in a single year. That was about
The rate per line for advertising in eight years ago. Following that remarkmail order papers aggregates more than able output, the sales steadily decreased the rate on any other class of publica until they went down to 8,000 organs per tions, because the circulations of the mail annum. order papers are greatly in excess of The writer took up the matter with the circulations of any other class of the manufacturer and suggested to him publications. The rate per line per thou that the mail order papers would sell sand circulation, however, is less than organs for him profitably. The manuthe rate per line per thousand in the facturer was prejudiced against the fancy, or so-called “high-grade” papers. papers. He was totally dumbfounded at
There is only one reason for these our statement concerning some of these papers carrying so much advertising, and papers having circulations upward of that is because they produce results. half a million each. He remarked that
The method used in most cases by ad he never heard of the papers, and when vertisers to determine results is the we told him about the rates per line he keyed advertisement. Probably three was greatly astonished and could not quarters of all the advertisements in the conceive how such publications could mail order publications call for response obtain such high rates. for circulars, catalogues or information. However, he was induced to make a The advertisement is so arranged with trial in the mail order papers, offering its key number that the advertiser can the organs direct to the consumer and readily determine how many replies he agreeing to take monthly payments. The gets from each paper. Mail order ad purchaser was required to fill out a vertisers do not have to be told about blank, showing his occupation, his resi
dence, length of time he had resided there, and also reference as to his character and standing. The plan worked out all right. The manufacturer is now selling 2,000 organs per month and he has demonstrated that the mail order papers are just suited to his proposition.
The point however we wish to make is this: In these application blanks containing the information just referred to, the statistics showed that 70 per cent of the purchasers gave their occupation as farmers. The manufacturer figured that if 70 per cent of his sales were farmers, it would be good business to use agricultural papers, and he did so. He found, however, that it cost over three times as much to sell his organs through the farm papers as it did through the mail order papers.
The average cost in the mail order papers was between six and seven dollars per organ. The average cost in the agricultural papers was about $20.00 per organ.
This manufacturer did right in trying the farm papers. The evidence in the shape of statistics made from the application blanks showed that seven out of ten organs were sold to farmers, but when the results came in he could not understand why the farm papers going to the very people he sold most of his organs to, should cost three times as much as the mail order papers.
The writer made some considerable investigation and has gathered data on the subject. This data is not hearsay, but very personal investigation. We found that practically every farm home in the United States has one, two, or even more farm papers. We found it equally true that these same homes have fully as many mail order papers.
We found that most of the information in the shape of reading matter in the farm papers is of a character that appeals to the men folks. The reading matter tells about building pig-pens, about fertilizing the land, about planting, harvesting, and other things of direct and personal interest to the man
on the farm. We found from our personal investigation that the women folks on these farms do not read the farm papers, excepting that part of them which refers to chicken raising or those departments about the home which appear in some of the farm papers.
The bulk of the woman's reading matter in the farm home is mail order papers.
The man will answer advertisements in the farm papers, but only those advertisements referring to articles he is interested in. The man on the farm does not make the suggestion to the wife that they buy an organ, nor does he suggest to his wife that they need a cook-stove. The only thing that interests him is the article which he can use on his farm or on his person.
The women folks read the mail order papers. The matter of raising chickens and making flower gardens is, as a rule, directly the woman's vocation, and so the advertiser wishing to reach the women on the farm will find he gets his replies cheaper, and that his sales cost him less through the mail order mediums than through the farm papers.
It is a truth, which is reasonable to understand, that if the advertiser wishes to reach all classes of people, he must use all classes of papers. It is foolish and presumptuous, for we of the cities, to refuse to advertise in the papers whose contents and whose general appearance do not appeal to us.
We should be broad enough to know that there are many tastes and many kinds of people. We should study the fitness of things. We should have for our object the person we wish to sell, and then find out the papers this person reads. Then our advertisement should be put in these papers and thereby we are reaching the ones we are after.
Most advertising however, is done the other way.
The advertiser selects the papers which look good to him, the papers which he knows and the papers in which his father advertised. He assumes that he will reach the people he is after, but he has taken the wrong move. He may strike it right, but he will not be so sure of his investment as the advertiser who goes about it the former way of finding out what his prospective customer reads and then advertising in such publications.
The aggregate circulation of the mail order weeklies and monthlies amounts to about 25,000,000 copies per issue. These papers do not circulate in the cities at all. They circulate in the country towns, villages, hamlets, and on farms.
The publishers of these papers have learned by experience and elimination just what these people want in the way of reading matter, and the last twentyfive years' experience has proven that these publishers have found out what suits the country people best and this is evidenced by the great amount of circulation these papers have.
There is a common rumor that the mail order papers are circulated gratuitously, and once a subscriber, always a subscriber; that the subscribers are induced to take the paper through the extrinsic offers in the way of premiums and chromos. This is not true.
The Honorable Third Assistant Postmaster General for the past five years has shown more activity in investigating the circulation of the mail order papers than he has in any other class. The power is within his hands to deny second class privilege to publications which are circulated primarily for advertising purposes; papers whose subscriptions are taken through premiums or other inducements. Not over one-half a dozen mail order papers have been affected by postoffice investigations.
The mail order paper as a rule cuts off the subscription the moment it ex: pires. On the other hand, the country weekly and many of the high-grada papers, including many farm papers, carry the subscription several years past the time. It has been shown recently
that some of the so-called "old reliable" farm papers have been in the habit of selling subscriptions in bulk to bankers at nominal rates.
I venture the assertion that very few papers in this country can show as clean a subscription list, as large a percentage of definite subscription orders, as small a percentage of expired subscriptions as the mail order paper of today. The price of these papers is low, because the paper stock used and the character of the publications, enables the publisher to produce the papers on a small margin of profit.
Lincoln said that "the Lord must love the common people, because he made so many of them." The census department shows that 70 per cent of the people live on farms or in country towns, and yet many advertisers continue to advertise articles which are suitable for the country, in the papers which reach the 30 per cent class who live in the larger cities.
Much advertising of a General Publicity kind is placed—that which calls for 110 replies, and the advertiser has no way of telling what the advertisement is doing, excepting in a general way. If his sales increase, he says the advertisement is good. If 70 per cent of the advertisements in the mail order papers are keyed advertisements, and the advertisers know definitely what the advertisements are doing, then the General Publicity advertiser can do no better than use the publications which are well filled with keyed advertising.
In the past few years incubator manufacturers, seedsmen, poultrymen, was ing-machine manufacturers, householdutensil manufacturers and others, have turned their attention towards the mail order papers and spent part of their appropriations in these publications. The results have been satisfactory. Practically all who have tried the mail order publications in the past few years have continued using them, and the only rea
son they continue is on account of the business for over thirty years. Sears, results they receive.
Roebuck & Co. have been in business “Where there is smoke, there is fire." about twelve years.
It was necessary The question is, how much fire? You for the latter concern to get their catacan not tell how much fire there is by logues and their name before the people watching the smoke from a distance. quickly if they wished to share in the You must go to it and investigate. prosperous times, and they spent thouThere is much talk and smoke about sands of dollars each year making their this mail order advertising. It costs announcements to the country people the advertiser very little to investigate through the mail order papers. how much fire there is, and even if a The great bulk of goods sold by these percentage of the claims of the mail great mail order houses are to the people order publishers are true, it is the adver on the farms, and yet the great bulk of tiser's duty to investigate and find out the advertising done by these same mail for himself about these mediums. If the
order houses is in the mail order papers, results are satisfactory, no argument is for they have found it a fact that the needed to keep him in the papers. women folks on the farms read the mail
Ten years ago many advertisers re order papers and they can sell their fused to even consider these mail order goods much better through the mail publications on account of their appear order papers than through the farm ance, but particularly for the reason that papers. they had no precedent to go by in the There is no question but that the shape of other advertisers in similar breeder of horses, the manufacturer of lines. A few pioneers started in and re harvesting machines, nursery men and ceived most wonderful results.
concerns of a similar character The case of the "farm home" first reach the men on the farms through the alluded to in this article is further farm papers, but if the thing you adverproven by the facts in connection with tise is of a nature to interest the women, Sears, Roebuck & Co. and wontgomery the mail order papers will get her attenWard & Co. While these advertisers tion better than the farm paper. use the farm papers, yet most of their I do not wish to attack other papers advertising in the farm papers is bug or to say that the other papers are not gies, wagons, plows, machinery, hard good advertising mediumis, but my exware, tools and things which interest perience and my livelihood has been the man.
gained through my intimate connection The advertising of stoves, washing with the mail order business for over machines, incubators and such like ap twenty years, and it is not for me to pear in the mail order papers. There are point out the good facts in connection more farm papers than there are mail with the other publications. It is for order papers; nevertheless, in compari me and my associates to show the points son, we do not believe the farm papers in favor of the mail order paper. get over 20 per cent as much advertis The truth is exact, and the statements ing from these mail order houses as the I have made are either true or false, mail order papers.
and if they are true, certainly the adverThe advertiser who has not used the tiser is not alive to his interests who mail order papers would hardly believe does not use the mail order papers; and that some of the larger publications if the statements I make are false, cercarry from ten to fifty thousand dollars' tainly the advertiser is not alive to his worth of advertising a year from one interests who does not prove the statemail order advertiser,
ments untrue. It would be poor policy Montgomery Ward & Co. have been in for us mail order publishers to talk so
much about the value of advertising in mail order papers if the results did not warrant our enthusiasm.
Our commodity is generally profitable and our publications will bear the closest investigation. We have confidence in our wares and that accounts for our enthusiasm and earnestness in trying to attract the advertiser's attention to the great common people in the country who read the mail order papers, who buy ready-made clothing and not tailor-made, who ride in accommodation trains, and not in the sleeper; who go to the country school and not the high school; who wear buckskin gloves, and not Dent's gloves; who wear $2.50 shoes, twentycent sox, two for a quarter handkerchiefs, and not the high-priced sox, and handkerchiefs the advertiser is accustomed to buying. These people in the country have simple tastes. They go in for the substantial. They figure closely in the matter of pennies. They are good advertisers when they are treated right. They tell their neighbors about the bargains they receive. They promote the advertiser's business in this way.
The people in the cities will not readily admit that they are affected by ad
among friends, Mr. Advertiser, and ask them one after another if they read advertisements and if they buy advertised articles and you will hear some truths you didn't expect.
If you wish to attract the attention of a child, you must speak to the child in child-language. If you wish to attract the attention of J. Pierpont Morgan, you must go to him and talk to him in the language he understands. You can not reach him through the mail order paper. Tiffany & Co. would fare poorly advertising diamond tiaras in mail order papers, but the man who sells the plain band gold rings cheaper than the local dealer sells them, finds the big audience in the mail order papers.
If you want to reach all classes of people, you must use all classes of papers. The class we are interested in is the great common people in the country who do not read the daily newspapers, the high-priced magazines or the artistic publications. If the thing you make or sell is suitable to this great country class, then you are not getting full efficiency from your advertising, unless you use the mail order papers.