how it all started. I certainly didn't until I was preparing for the class I teach at UW.
I was surprised to find out that its earliest beginnings go all the way back to the
1600s, soon after Gutenberg's invention of movable type. Among the first uses
were gardening catalogs and it's said that George Washington and Thomas
Jefferson were mail-order buyers.
One of America's most notable early printers was Benjamin Franklin, who published
a catalog in the mid 1700s that contained a guarantee of customer satisfaction:
Those persons who live remote, by sending their orders and money
to said B. Franklin, may depend on the same justice as if present.
People just don't talk like that anymore, do they? It was from these beginnings that
a slew of catalogs were created during the post-Civil War era. In the late 1800s,
Aaron Montgomery Ward produced what amounted to a mere price list on a single
sheet of paper with no illustrations. A dozen years later, it became a 240-page
catalog containing 10,000 items.
Richard Warren Sears, a telegraph operator in a remote part of Minnesota, obtained
a shipment of undeliverable watches. He determined that the best prospects to buy
them were railroad agents like himself and he acquired a list of 20,000 such people.
Sounds like good direct marketing to me...selling a product/service to a targeted
audience. By 1893, Sears Roebuck & Company was formed and, in less than five
years, his original offer of a single item to a specific market expanded to a catalog of
more than 750 pages with 6,000 items.
These are just a few of the stories from direct marketing's illustrious past. I'm sure
these founding fathers could not even conceive in their wildest imagination that their
actions would lead to advertising via TV, radio, billboards, e-mail and the Internet.
My how things have changed in the last 100 years. It only makes me wonder what
the world will be like in 100 more.