Sunday, July 1, 2018

#13 The 800-year History of Direct Marketing

Issue #13 — Monday, July 2, 2018

Posted by Denny Hatch

The First Direct Marketing Campaign 800 Years Ago

CHARTRES, France, June 15, 1194 — Lightning struck and kindled a massive fire. Chartres Cathedral burned to the ground. The only elements intact were the façade, west towers and the crypt.
For the community of Chartres this was a catastrophe. The very symbol of the city was in ruins. Worse, lost for all time was one of Christianity’s holiest relics—the robe believed to have been worn by Mary when she gave birth to Jesus Christ.

The Bishop of Chartres, Regnault de Mouçon, wanted to start rebuilding immediately. But the townspeople, devastated by the huge loss, had no stomach for such an undertaking.
Bishop Regnault de Mouçon (d. 1217), Chartres Cathedral
Mary’s robe was not only holy, but also had the mystical aura of being the city’s amulet—or good luck charm. It kept everybody safe. To the residents of Chartres, rebuilding was a non-starter.
A couple of days after the fire, Bishop de Mouçon was at the smoking ruins delivering a passionate plea for rebuilding to a small collection of villagers. Suddenly a procession of monks, nuns and priests appeared, slowly marching up through the smoke from the crypt bearing the reliquary with Mary’s robe intact. It was saved!
To Regnault de Mouçon and the God-fearing folk of Chartres this was a sign from the Almighty the cathedral must be rebuilt. The bishop launched a furious letter-writing campaign to French nobility and rich people all over Europe. 

In addition, Regnault cut a deal with Richard the Lion Hearted (with whom France was at war) enabling him to send fund raising mailings into England.

The  winding Labyrinth in Chartres' nave 
with its atmosphere of myth and mystery 

The rich noble families of France and England responded with cash and gifts. So did the many guilds of workers, the equivalent of unions back then—shoemakers, wheelwrights, bankers, vintners, coopers, furriers, bankers, etc.
Chartres was rebuilt bigger and better than before. As an eternal “thank you,” the donors’ portraits and coats of arms were included in the magnificent 2600 square meters (172 bays) of stained glass windows of the new Chartres, where you can see them today.
Chartres' Glorious, Eternal Thank-you to:
(left) Vintners' Guild, (right) Furriers & Drapers

This was the very first instance of direct mail marketing.

Takeaways to Consider

• Direct Mail/direct marketing is a discipline going back more than 800 years.

• No other advertising medium can claim 800+ years of testing what works and what does not.

• Direct mail is “intimate advertising.” 
Stan Rapp, Rapp & Collins

• Direct mail is theater in print.” 
— George Duncan, freelancer

• "Always say "Thank You! It's the polite thing to do."  
Roger Craver, Legendary fundraiser


Word count: 447

You Are Invited to Meet Denny Hatch and
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At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.


Denny Hatch
The St. James
200 West Washington Square, #3007
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-644-9526 (Rings on my desk)

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  1. Denny, thank you for your unabashed admiration of the medium via which so many of us have built our livelihoods.

    Too bad there are those among us who wish to banish the word "direct" out of fear of being left behind, and replace it with mealy-mouthed jargon like "data driven marketing."

    Direct marketing, of course, encompasses ANY medium - online or off - when used to generate a lead or order.

    Even just looking at direct mail, it's instructive to note that the likes of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google collectively spend billions on this "marketing that dare not speak its name."

    1. Hey Peter,

      Many thanks for taking the time to comment.

      I also despise the term “Data-Driven Marketing.”

      I remember the old days when DMA stood for Direct Mail Association. Morphed into Direct Mail Marketing Association, thence to Direct Marketing Association.

      As you know it has been in financial doo-doo for years. Now just been sold to another association and is the Data & Marketing Association.

      Hell, all marketing associations deal with data and marketing.

      Plus their conference is “& Then.”


      A bunch of yuppies talking to themselves.

      Do keep in touch.


    2. Loved the 'Direct Mail' example and re-read it a couple of times just to make sure of the 'strategy' involved behind its success. Today we even hear about the need to now teach the Art of Communication & Conversation at school as it appears that this art is lost?

  2. Beautiful piece of history, Denny. Thank you.

  3. And of course, Franklin was appointed postmaster of Philadelphia by the British Crown Post in 1737 and later the first Postmaster General of the United States, because he had a vested interest in a postal service serving the entire country so he could promote the books he published, receive orders by mail, and then ship the ordered books by post. Franklin was responsible for all Post Offices from Massachusetts to Georgia and had authority to hire postmasters as necessary.

    1. Ernie,

      Thank you for taking the time to Comment.

      One of the great tourist stops here in Philly is the First Post Office on Market Street.

  4. "Intimate advertising". Love that!

  5. Great story, Denny! The best definition of "junk mail" I ever heard: "The only mail that is 'junk' is the mail you get that doesn't interest you."

    It is sad that direct is the Rodney Dangerfield of marketing. Sad because it's the only division of marketing that can prove its effectiveness down to the tiniest detail. It's the only marketing that is truly scientific.

    Best regards!

    Tim Orr

  6. Thanks for the story Denny, both interesting, instructive and inspiring!

  7. The word "direct" implies a personalized message about something one cares about. It may provoke a need, solve a problem, arouse an emotion. Attracting support for a church and a robe 800 years ago sure accomplished those goals. Too bad religious institutions today have not targeted their messages appropriately, at least none that come to me. Thanks Denny for your contribution.

  8. MEGA GAME นำไปเล่นเกมได้ทุกๆ เกมในเวลานี้ทางค่ายของเรานั้นจะมาจัดโปรโมชั่นแสนพิเศษให้กับผู้ที่เข้ามาเล่นทุกท่าน เครดิตฟรี 100 เพียงเท่านี้