Direct Mail is an amazing medium. It is used by more advertisers than any other advertising medium. It is a principal form of communications for nonadvertisers. More dollars are used up annually on direct mail than on any other type of advertising - perhaps well over $5 billion. It produces amazing response - even from those who persevere they always throw it away unopened. It is fully flexible - bounded only by wide postal regulations, rules of decency, and whatever budget is established. It can be used to reach just one individual or millions. It can be made personal, even to the point of being completely confidential. It can be almost entirely controlled by the advertiser. It can be produced in minutes when necessary and delivered with speed to whatever audience is chosen. It can be used with equal effectiveness by the large and the small; by the experienced and the inexperienced.

Yet it is the most misunderstood of all media. It is badmouthed by a high percentage of its audience. It is treated with indifference by many - even advertisers who spend millions and billions of dollars on it annually. It is treated with contemptuous disregard in comparison with other media. It is neglected by most organized advertising groups. It is considered unworthy of professional handling by many advertising agencies. It is abused by legislators, the courts, and the postal service.

All of these factors considered, the most astonishing paradox of direct mail is that it is seldom recognized as one of the most dynamic communications and marketing tools available in our twentieth century economy. Typically, direct mail is treated as a necessary wicked and a high percentage of users even fail to recognize they are direct mail advertisers. One of the reasons for this paradox is that so much confusion surrounds the definition of direct mail. A wide variety of definitions have been offered, but most authorities are comfortable to accept those which have been developed by the Direct Marketing Association.

One of the most difficult things for many advertisers to understand is the difference between direct mail and mail order. Very simply, one is a medium of advertising and communications while the other is a method of conducing a business. And then there is the even broader title, “direct advertising,” which includes direct mail, but involves forms of distribution other than the mails. More recently, the term “Direct Marketing” has been added to the direct mail dictionary.

DMA, in its publication, The Story of Direct Advertising, offers these definitions:

Direct Advertising is a broad term encompassing all the diversified forms and uses of this major medium of advertising. Management's selection of a kind of direct advertising, like the selection of any one medium, depends upon objective and result expectancy.

When an advertiser distributes his selling message in print through newspapers, magazines, car cards, and outdoor advertising, uses television or radio, he can reasonably expect that a certain percentage of this potential audience will see, read, or listen to his sales story. In such circumstances the advertiser knows from experience that it is good business judgment to send his sales message to all the readers of a magazine or newspaper, or to all viewers and listeners of a television or radio program, and pay for all - even though only some of them are prospects for his product or services.

Obviously, then, if the advertiser chooses to send his sales story by mail, messenger, or salesman, he can exercise greater selection and control. Under such circumstances, by care fully qualifying his prospects, the advertiser can direct his selling message to specific individuals. This type of promotional activity commonly called direct advertising is defined as “a vehicle for transmitting an advertiser's message in permanent written, printed, or processed form, by controlled distribution, direct to selected individuals.”

Direct advertising logically divides itself into three broad classifications, determined by what it is used for, and how it is delivered.

1. Direct mail advertising includes all forms of direct advertising that are sent through the mail. Direct mail as been aptly called the advance agent, the missionary man, the handshake ahead of the meeting, plus the means whereby pre-selling and continuous contacts with customers can be economically maintained.

Its predominant functions are to arouse interest, to help customers as an aid to buying, to familiarize prospects with the name of the product, its maker, its merits, names of local distributors; also, to remove obstacles to sales, by present and new customers as well as to resell past customers, to predispose prospects favorable so that the closely geared in personal selling effort will produce maximum sales returns.

Direct mail advertising is most efficient when the user appreciates its limitations as well as potentialities - and directs his mail to prospects instead of suspects. As with all advertising, results in the final analysis are largely determined by how many of the right kind of people see, read, and act upon it. In addition to using direct mail for its sales building effectiveness, management finds in its diversified forms the answer to the many problems of internal and external communication.

2. Mail order Advertising. This type of direct mail selling promotion includes all methods, other than personal salesmanship and space, television or radio advertising, for inducing people to send in orders by mail. Mail order promotions - whether sales letters or booklets soliciting orders for one product or a group of closely related products, or the mammoth catalogs of mail order houses embracing wide ranges of products - are designed as self-sufficient to accomplish the whole selling job without resorting to he help of salesmen and with either little or no support from other advertising media. Mail order advertising takes the place of the salesman; direct mail advertising helps him sell.

3. Unmailed Direct Advertising. This classification of direct advertising includes many varied forms of dealer helps such as window, counter, floor, hanging, package and counter displays, plus printed materials not went through the mail but distributed from door to door, handed to customers in retail stores, included in packages and bundles, delivered by salesmen or messenger, or in some other manner conveyed directly to the recipient. Unmailed direct advertising is used for the same broad purpose as direct mail advertising and mail order advertising.

Although the study of consumer attitudes and beliefs toward advertising in general has received some attention, the issue of direct response advertising remains largely unexplored. The lack of attention notwithstanding, direct response advertising is both highly visible and monetarily significant. In fact, direct response advertising is said to account for 58 percent of total advertising outlays (Direct Marketing Association, 1997).

Long before the word ‘attitude' became central to other areas of psychological theory, concepts of cognitive mediation dominated the analysis of social behavior. By the 1930s, Allport (1935) had declared attitude to be social psychology's "most distinctive and indispensable concept" (p. 798), Thurstone (1931; Thurstone & Chave, 1929) had developed quantitatively sophisticated methods for attitude measurement. Self-esteem, an attitudinal construct, also has a long-established history (e.g., James, 1890; see overview in Wylie, 1974, 1979).

Through much of the period since the 1930s, most social psychologists have assumed that attitudes, and to a lesser extent stereotypes, operate in a conscious mode. This widespread assumption of conscious operation is most evident in the nearuniversal practice of operationalizing attitudes (including selfesteem) and stereotypes with direct (instructed self-report) measures. The pervasiveness of direct measurement for attitudes and stereotypes was documented by Greenwald (1990) and by Banaji and Greenwald (1994) and is discussed in detail in earlier chapter.

The current study draws heavily from Pollay and Mittal's (1993) study and applies it to direct mail advertising. The choice of Pollay and Mittal's study as a basis for the study of DMA was governed by threr factors: first, the scale designed by Pollay and Mittal is reported to be reliable and valid; second, the constructs are theory based and drawn from the past literature in the area; finally, it is easy to read and administer, thereby minimizing the possibility of bias during its adaptability to direct mail advertising. The scales reported by other published studies were specific to a particular medium, not validated, or lacking in comprehensive conceptualization. A brief description of Pollay and Mittal's seven-factor model in relation to DMA is shown in the Appendix.


Direct marketing is a type of marketing that set sights on establishing and maintaining long term, structural, direct relationships between a supplier and its customers (Hoekstra and Zwart, 1993; Raaijmaakers et al., 1992). A relationship builds up through regular interaction, in which both parties react to one another's actions. Direct marketing may be adopted at many levels in the distribution chain: producers, wholesalers as well as retailers may choose for direct marketing (e.g. Marshall and Vredenburg, 1988; Voorhees and Coppett, 1983).

Developments in information technology, individualization tendencies, rising distribution costs and the increase of dual-income households have been known as the responsible factors for the increased confidence on direct marketing (Pettit, 1987).

Direct marketing is escalating at two times the rate of traditional retailing methods (May, 1989). A Time magazine cover story anticipated the number of Americans responding to direct marketing solicitations to be 92 million in 1989 and the dollar amount of purchases to be $183 billion (Time, 1990). According to Statistical Fact Book (1993-1994), the percentage of adults spending $200 or more per year on products ordered through direct marketing rose from 16% to 21% in 1992. As a matter of fact, more money is currently spent on direct marketing programs and solicitations than on magazine or television advertising (Direct Marketing, 1994; Marketing News, 1992). Particularly, direct mail embraces the third largest percentage of all advertising expenditure, increasing from 16% in 1982 to 19% in 1992 (Statistical Fact Book, 1993-1994). In addition, a growing number of firms are now members of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), including Fortune 500 firms and leading advertising agencies (Direct Marketing-Annual Survey, 1984; Statistical Fact Book, 1993-1994).

The following media can be used to communicate directly with specific individuals and/or households in order to transmit direct marketing offers and solicitations:

  1. direct mail: an addressed, written, commercial message that is delivered at the addressees by a postal service;
  2. telephone; and
  3. interactive devices like interactive TV and Internet.

As a result of the growth of direct marketing, the use of direct media, in particular direct mail, increases continually (Direct Marketing Association's Statistical Factbook, 1993). The increase of the use of direct mail also stems from heavier reliance on the medium, both by previous users as well as by new users.


Unlike earlier years, when the direct marketing industry was subjugated by small, morn-and-pop businesses, many large firms are now members of the direct marketing industry, including Sears, Montgomery Ward, AARP, L. L. Bean, and Lands' End. This has steered an increased level of competition among firms in the industry. The increased level of competition, sequentially, has led to the surplus of consumers with direct mail solicitations, predominantly that of catalogues (Business Week, 1993a; Miller, 1994; Schwadel, 1988; Storholm and Friedman, 1989; Tixier, 1987). Over 64 billion direct mail pieces finished up in consumers' mailboxes in 1989 (Time, 1990).

In the literature attention has been primarily focused on the selection of households. In contrast, little attention has been given to the optimization of the design of the mailing, although direct mail practitioners often apply the manipulation of characteristics (Hoekstraand Vriens, 1995). Two studies have been concerned with the elements of the direct mail package. Akaah and Korgaonkar (1988) studied the relative importance of "risk relievers'' in a direct marketing offer. They found that direct marketers can enhance the effectiveness by offering money-back-guarantees rather than free trials/samples, by using established manufacturer names rather than unknown manufacturer names, and that both new and established products can be sold by means of direct marketing. James and Li (1993) studied the importance of the design characteristics of the mailing, by interviewing both consumers and managers through a direct questioning procedure asking about the attractiveness of a number of separate design characteristics of the mailing. However, letting respondents self-explicate the importance of the various design characteristics of a mailing may not constitute an appropriate task for the respondents, and may produce invalid results (e.g. Green and Srinivasan, 1990).

Communicating with target audiences through direct mail is an elegant alternative to total reliance upon broadcast and newspaper mass media. Sending information by direct mail gives an opportunity to make contact with target audience in their homes. The payoff of direct mail fit in the potential for reaching larger target audiences competently, the low cost as compared to many other modes of communication, and perhaps most prominently, its flexibility (Murray, et al., 1988).

Direct mail has many advantages over other media. For instance, direct mail can engage in precision targeting to a greater degree than other media, it offers the opportunity to personalize to any desired degree, and there is a large flexibility with regard to formats, timing and testing. However, the relative high cost per potential customer, compared to alternative media, requires sufficient response rates to ensure profitable implementation. So, it is important to develop ways to improve the effectiveness of direct mail campaigns. Vriens, et al. (1998) proposed a method to improve the effectiveness of direct mail by determining the optimal mailing design. They proposed two approaches, based on conjoint methodology, to determine optimal mailing characteristics efficiently. First approach presented a model of the consumer response process and second discussed the mechanism to influence the consumer response process.

Another approach for improving the effectiveness of direct mail concerns manipulating the characteristics of the offer and the design of the mailing (e.g. Akaah and Korgaonkar, 1988; Fraser-Robinson, 1989; Roberts and Berger, 1989; Throckmorton, 1992; Vögele, 1992). Characteristics that are essential to the design of the mailing relate to its form (size of the envelope, use of graphics etc.) and to some aspects of the contents (style of writing, use of testimonials etc.). In order to be able to manipulate the characteristics of the offer and the design characteristics of the mailing, the direct marketing manager needs to know exactly to what extent the various characteristics of the offer and the mailing influence the behavioral components of the response process.

Milne et al., (1993) conceptualize direct mail as an implied social contract between marketers and consumers. Four attributes constitute the direct mail social contract: volume, targeting, compensation, and permission. An examination of public opinion polls [Equifax 1990, 1991; Hume 1991; United States Postal Service 1992] and proposals to change the direct mail environment [Baker 1986; DiTalamo 1991; DMA 1990; Jones 1991; Miller 1991; Westin 1990] suggest that these four attributes are critical to consumer decisions to participate in direct mail social contracts:

Targeting—there seems to be universal agreement that the targeting of direct mail needs to be improved, enabling consumers to receive information of interest to them, but not that which they perceive to be too personal or perhaps even offensive.

Volume—most consumers have strong opinions about the volume of mail they receive, and the majority of proposals influence mail quantity in some way. Volume varies more than targeting in terms of preferences. Some people would like more mail, whereas others would like less [United States Postal Service 1992].

Permission—the third criteria used to decide whether to enter a social contract relates to how the information provided to complete a transaction is used subsequently. For example, once an organization obtains information about consumers, that information could be considered their property to do with what they wish, including selling it to other organizations. Alternatively, the information could remain the property of the consumer, and no organization would be permitted to use it for any other purpose without the permission of the consumer. Once again, there is disagreement concerning which option is best.

Compensation—a final consideration included in the evaluation of the attributes of a direct mail contract is compensation. Some have suggested that consumers receive compensation (e.g., coupons, rebates, special offers) for providing personal information that is used for direct mail purposes [DMA 1990; Westin 1990]. Others have charged consumers a fee to place them on the mailing lists of their choice [Miller 1991].

Milne measured the trade-offs consumers make among these attributes. The results suggest consumers want improved targeting efficiency and lower mail volume, and they are not willing to pay for these improvements. These findings suggest that consumers consider several attributes in their evaluation of direct mail social contracts.

Mentioning name on the envelops of direct mail solicitations yield very positive results in terms of consumer's response. Dignan & Bahnson (1994) carried out an experiment to investigate causes of influence on the effectiveness of direct mail advertising. Direct mail has exposed promise as a method for getting to target audiences that are complex to reach with other mass media advertising approaches. A randomized experiment was performed to estimate the influence of form of postage and address upon the response rate to direct mail. Results specified that there was no considerable advantage from use of first class over bulk rate postage, but the payoff was significantly larger when the envelope bore a name rather than resident or occupant.

With direct mail, artistically built-up educational materials can draw the receiver's attention towards the solicitation in a manner where there are less competing solicitations than in TV, radio, or newspapers. For audiences with restricted access to mass media, direct mail can be an imperative means of outreach. For example, those people with limited transportation may not come across billboards, posters, and other identical mass media, but they are more likely to obtain regular mail delivery. Additionally, unlike television and radio solicitations, educational materials, sent by direct mail, can be kept for future reference (Gillespie and coworkers, 1983). After all, direct mail put forward an opportunity to expand two-way communication with the target audiences because the mail can be used to encourage the recipient to act in response to the program's information as well.

Gerber and Green (2000) conducted an experiment to study the effects of canvassing, telephone calls and direct mail on voter turnout. The experimental tradition harks back to Gosnell's (1927) studies in Chicago, which assigned certain city blocks to receive nonpartisan mail reminders to register and vote. Gosnell found that turnout increased by 1% in the presidential election of 1924 and 9% in the municipal election of 1925. Furthermore, the principal experiment to examine the effects of personal canvassing in conjunction with mailings that used varying types of nonpartisan appeals was conducted by Eldersveld (1956; Eldersveld and Dodge 1954) in two Ann Arbor, Michigan, municipal elections. In both cases the effects of canvassing and mail were statistically significant. Gerber launched a series of turnout experiments in which randomly selected households were exposed to mailings, telephone calls, or personal appeals before the general election. The study was designed to measure the effect of personal canvassing, telephone calls, and direct mail appeals on voter turnout. To study the impact of direct mail, an experiment was intended to measure the turnout effect of both the number of mailings received and the message conveyed. To gauge the first effect, the treatment group was divided into three subgroups and sent one, two, or three mailings, respectively. The mailings were sent out at three intervals: 15 days, 13 days, and 8 days before the election. The subgroup that received two mailings was sent mail on the two dates closest to the election, and the single mailing was sent 8 days before the election. The findings indicate that personal canvassing is highly effective, much more so than the direct mail and telemarketing campaigns that have come to displace it. Personal canvassing had a far greater influence on voter participation than three pieces of professionally crafted mail delivered within two weeks of Election Day. Less effective than direct mail were calls from professional phone banks.

Commercial marketers have been the most fruitful client of direct mail (Dillman, D. A., 1978). For them, response rates vary usually depending on the type of good or service promoted and the complexity of the advertisement. Response rates range from 2-3 percent for a simple direct mail advertising of consumer products to 20 percent for mailings that put forward free products as enticement for future orders (Kanuk, L., and Berenson, C., 1975). Direct mail can be executed efficiently by using commercially prepared lists of recipients' mailing addresses (Kanuk, L., and Berenson, C., 1975). Such lists are organized from utility company records, telephone directories, voting records, and further sources.

Direct mail also gains importance in not-for-profit organizations. These firms define direct mail in their own perspective as “Direct mail” is the term used to depict the letters forwarded by philanthropic organizations in an endeavor to raise funds for support. In several respects, these letters are not dissimilar from the promotional direct mail sales letters sent out by businesses (Abelen, Redeker, and Thompson, 1993; Bhatia, 1998). Direct mail is a massive business in the U.S., and there are a few not-for-profit organizations that do not use the direct mail advertising medium in one way or another (Torre and Bedixen, 1988). As Abelen, Redeker, and Thompson (1993) indicated, the direct mail letter is the “most important instrument for communicating the ‘good cause' of a nonprofit organization to a wide range of prospective donors” (p. 325). It is in this solicitation that the prospective donor has to be swayed to give money. In a small scale study, comparing Dutch and American direct mail letters, Abelen et al (1993) reveal that direct mail letters do follow general persuasive strategies which can differ from culture to culture.

Besides that, direct mail is considered as one of the imperative marketing tools in arousing the significance of health and dietary practices. Direct mail advertising has been used with extensive success by community-based health learning programs. The Minnesota Heart Health Program deployed a form of direct mail as a strategy to stimulate action by community residents at risk for hypertension (Murray, et al., 1988). In his study, 28.2 percent of the community residents who received a single direct mail letter recalled receiving the message encouraging them to focus attention on screening for hypertension by discussing their blood pressure with a physician. Of the 28.2 percent, 12 percent reported taking action and having their blood pressure checked. Moreover, Gillespie and coworkers (1983) conducted a research to study the effectiveness of using direct mail to improve dietary practices. Of 621 eligible families, 24.5 percent were enlisted for the direct mail nutrition education program. Results portrayed that those completing the program improved productive family interactions about nutrition.

Race is a leading communicator cue in taking buying decisions from the medium of direct marketing. This may be primarily relevant in the case of industrial direct mail advertising where straight rebuy and modified rebuy purchasing decisions are inclined to be low rather than high involvement (Hutt and Speh 1998). In such instances, peripheral cues (race) have been found to be an imperative factor in attitude formation and change (Petty, Caioppo and Schumann 1983).

In exploring the black consumer market, it has been found that the use of black models in print media might determine, to a great notch, who gets the black segment of the buyer market. In the consumer direct mail advertising medium, Wilson and Biswas (1995) found that the depiction of black modals in consumer specialty catalogs was about 4 percent. Each of these studies concluded that the percentages of blacks in consumer studies trailed their representation in society. Stevenson and Swayne (1999) studied the portrayal of blacks in industrial advertising into a new medium, business-to-business direct mail, and endeavor to determine if the representation of African-Americans in this medium is consistent with that found in other print media. Results showed that the percentage of ads portraying blacks was quite close to the presence of blacks employed in the business world. Moreover, it was found that the qualitative portrayals employed in business-to-business direct mail differed from those found in other industrial media. Thus, it appears that business-to-business direct mail advertisers are responsive to the increasing presence of African-Americans in the buying center.

On the other side, some researchers contend that very large volume of such mail is acknowledged to cause consumer annoyance (Schwadel, 1988). Also, it adds to consumer concern about invasion of privacy (Williams, 1991). Thus, the consumers who are concerned about too much catalogue or direct mail solicitations are likely to evince negative attitudes toward direct mailing.

This emergent perception regarding direct mailing results in the invasion of consumer privacy which has led to limit marketing practices. These restrictions on practices could be evaded if direct marketers segment their markets based on their consumers' attitudes toward direct marketing practices. Milne & Gordon (1994) form segments that measured consumers' attitudes toward privacy and direct marketing. Data was used from a conjoint study that evaluated 151 consumers' attitudes toward diverse direct mail environment scenarios (Milne, et al., 1993). Each scenario was explained using four attributes: targeting efficiency, quantity of mail received by the consumer, com­pensation, and permission. These attributes and levels were selected because each had been included in at least some of the proposals for re­stricting direct mail practices (DMA (1990), Di Talamo, Nichoias (1991), Dickson, Roger, and Hollander, Stanley (1986), Miller, Annetta (1991), Westin, Alan F. (1990)). Results of the study suggest that consumers differ in their atti­tudes toward direct mail, and therefore, in what they consider acceptable in terms of direct mail practices. Principally, the Demanding Middle segment is against paying for mail solicitation. In addition, the Demanding Middle seg­ment reports a high utility for better targeted mail. The Prospective Lobbyists reported they are sent too much mail. Lastly, The New Right group was comfortable with the status quo. As the youngest of the segments, it may be the most contented with the computer age and feel that direct mail is an acceptable way of doing business. This group had the highest rating of direct mail across all three segments.

The governing body of the European Community has proposed a far more restrictive direct mail environment. The proposed regulations would prohibit the use of information about consumers without their permission and require that companies notify consumers when and for what purpose this information is forwarded to another party. The regulations would provide for compensation if information about a consumer is misused. While these regulations apply to direct mail in Europe, they have implications for direct mail in the United States as well. This is because they would prohibit the transfer of data outside the European Community unless the receiving country could assure that the previously described measures would be followed (Di Talamo, Nichoias, 1991).

Moreover, several researches find out the fact that potential consumer most often experience risk while purchasing through direct mail. Homer E. et al., (1970) determined whether or not consumers perceive greater risk in the act of buying by mail than in buying from a store or a salesman. For 20 products studied, consumers perceived more risk in the mail-order situation than in the store/salesman situation.


Attitudes are favorable or unfavorable dispositions toward social objects, such as people, places, and policies. Attempts to establish the validity of the attitude construct have most often sought to demonstrate positive correlations between measured attitudes and the favorable-unfavorable aspect of observed behavior toward their objects. The frequently weak correlations observed in these attempts define the predictive validity problem for attitudes (documented especially by Wicker, 1969; see also Festinger, 1964, and LaPiere, 1934). A notable accomplishment of modern research on attitudes has been the solution of this predictive validity problem. That is, conditions under which attitudes strongly correlate with behavior have now been well identified (especially by Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Fazio, 1986, 1990b; Fazio & Zanna, 1981; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1974; Zanna & Fazio, 1982). Myers (1990) summarized these and related programs of research as showing that "our attitudes predict our actions. . .if, as we act, we are conscious of our attitudes" (Myers, 1990, p. 40, emphasis added). Similarly, in the description of attitude-behavior relations in their recent treatise on the attitude construct, Eagly and Chaiken (1993, pp. 208-211) referred to the importance of attitudes "[coming] to mind" and the "perceived relevance" of attitude to action.

Although the modern synthesis achieved by the Fishbein-Ajzen (1974) and Fazio-Zanna (1981) research programs is now well established, it is difficult to avoid concluding that the attitude construct lost scope in the process. For those who can remember it, there might be justifiable nostalgia for an era in which Allport (1935) was able to proclaim that attitude was social psychology's "most indispensable concept."

The following list gives several definitions that have been influential in guiding scholarly and empirical treatments of attitudes, as indicated by their frequent citation in other works. Although the list may appear dated (the most recent entry is from 1962), it nevertheless remains current. Recent works (e.g.,Eagly & Chaiken, 1993; Fazio, 1986; McGuire, 1985; Petty & Cacioppo, 1981; Zanna & Rempel, 1988) continue to draw on them and remain within their boundaries.

Attitude is the affect for or against a psychological object. (Thurstone, 1931, p. 261)

An attitude is a mental and neural state of readiness, organized through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual's response to all objects and situations with which it is related. (Allport, 1935, p. 810)

Attitude is . . .an implicit, drive-producing response considered socially significant in the individual's society. (Doob, 1947, p. 136)

An attitude is a predisposition to experience, to be motivated by, and to act toward, a class of objects in a predictable manner. (M. B. Smith, Bruner, & White, 1956, p. 33)

[Attitudes] are predispositions to respond, but are distinguished from other such states of readiness in that they predispose toward an evaluative response. (Osgood, Suci, & Tannenbaum, 1957, p. 189)

[An attitude is] a disposition to react favorably or unfavorably to a class of objects (Sarnoff, 1960, p. 261).

Attitudes [are] enduring systems of positive or negative evaluations, emotional feelings, and pro or con action tendencies with respect to social objects. (Krech, Crutchfield, & Ballachey, 1962, p. 139)

The lack of mention of consciousness in this collection of attitude definitions accurately reflects a long scholarly tradition of nonconcern with the distinction between conscious and unconscious operation of attitudes. At the same time, nothing in this scholarly tradition actively opposes either the possibility or the importance of unconscious operation of attitudes.

Standing starkly in the above list as suggesting unconscious operation is Doob's (1947) definition, which labels attitude as an "implicit, drive-producing response." In spite of Doob's association with a behaviorist theory (Hull, 1943) that had no use for conceptions of either conscious or unconscious cognition, it is clear that Doob did conceive attitude as operating unconsciously (May & Doob, 1937, p. 13). Lately, Doob commented, "before World War II we all were impressed by psychoanalysis in addition to behaviorism," suggesting that, even though it may have gone unmentioned in many published treatments, the idea that attitudes operated unconsciously was quite acceptable in the 1940s and earlier. That conclusion is supported also by several passing references to the possibly unconscious nature of attitudes in Allport's (1935) review chapter.

Recent work has established that attitudes are activated outside of conscious attention, by showing both that activation occurs more rapidly than can be mediated by conscious activity (Bargh, Chaiken, Govender, & Pratto, 1992; Fazio, Sanbonmatsu, Powell, & Kardes, 1986) and that activation is initiated by (subliminal) stimuli, the presence of which is unreportable (Greenwald, Klinger, & Liu, 1989). The present analysis of implicit attitudes extends work on automatic activation to explain how the attitude activated by one object can be (mis)attributed to another. An implicit attitude can be thought of as an existing attitude projected onto a novel object. The interpretation of several important existing findings as implicit attitude effects substantially expands the predictive and construct validity of social psychology's attitude construct. It also prompts the empirical search for further members of the potentially large class of implicit attitude effects. In the domain of attitude change, two recent theoretical analyses (Chaiken, 1987; Petty & Cacioppo, 1986) have distinguished relatively thoughtful (central or systematic) from relatively thoughtless (peripheral or heuristic) roles of cognition in persuasion. The implicit processes conceived in the present analysis are, in part, subsumed by the notions of peripheral or heuristic processing, but also involve processes operating even further from the range of conscious thought than conceived in these analyses.

Several researches on the attitude of people towards direct mail revealed that people evinced positive attitude towards direct mail. Implied social contract provides a basis for evaluating attitudes toward direct mail and temporal changes in attitudes. On the attitudinal questions a four-component solution revealed the following dimensions: (1) favorability towards direct mail, (2) direct mail seen as a resource, (3) list management concerns, and (4) environmental concerns. Respondents concerned about list management and the environmental impact of direct mail. Report a somewhat favorable attitude toward direct mail on average, but do not strongly view it as a resource. (Milne & Gordon, 1993)

Although it is appealing to infer consumer attitudes by directly observing behavior (e.g., patronage/non-patronage of direct marketing products), it is often difficult and subjective to draw conclusions about attitudes from behavior. A consumer observed purchasing a given product might have done so to take advantage of a special deal on price rather than because he/she particularly liked the product. Moreover, the relationship between attitude and intention lends itself more readily to cross-sectional research than the relationship between attitude and future behavior. Indeed, the viability of patronage intention as a surrogate measure of future behavior is well established in the literature (Darden and Lush, 1983). Furthermore, the theory of reasoned action (as noted previously) suggests that consumer behavior is influenced by intention to engage in the given behavior. Intention, in turn, is influenced by consumer attitudes toward the stimulus (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980). The results of the study by Bagozzi (1982) suggest that attitudes influence behavior but through intention. Additional support for this direction of linkage is provided by Bagozzi (1992) and Korgaonkar, Lund, and Price (1985). However, the linkage from intention to attitudes remains to be empirically established.

Articulation of the norms that govern the direct mail social contract is useful in understanding why attitudes toward direct mail are changing and how they might evolve in the future. Norms have played an increasingly important role in shaping the direct mail environment and can be expected to do so to an even greater extent in the future. Illustrations of this are the growing percentage of customers who are aware of how information obtained through transactions is used by organizations [Equifax 1991], calls for consumers to receive compensation for their information [Westin 1990], and the practice of businesses charging a fee to provide certain types of offers (i.e., mail order catalogs). Because different types of individuals operate using different sets of norms, they will evaluate the attributes of the direct mail environment differently. Norms guiding the behavior of the majority of individuals and those who are most vocal in their opinions regarding direct mail can be expected to guide the evolution of the direct mail environment.

However, researchers strived to identify the dimensions that derive knowledge of consumers' attitudes toward direct marketing and the factors that underlie their attitudes but most of them have neglected the domains that determine the attitude of people towards direct mail. The significance of such knowledge lies in the fact that attitudes influence most aspects of consumption behavior (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980; Sheppard, Hartwick, and Warshaw, 1988). As such, knowledge of consumer attitudes and their determinants is vital to the proper identification and implementation of corrective measures. This notwithstanding, not much empirical research has been conducted on the topic- exceptions being the studies by Jolson (1970) and Lumpkin, Caballero, and Chonko (1989). Moreover, neither of the two studies focused directly on the determinants of consumers' attitudes toward direct marketing.

Ishmael R Akaah et al., (1995) explored empirically the influence of shopping orientation factors as determinants of consumers' attitudes toward direct marketing and the linkage between their attitudes and intention to patronize direct marketing offerings. The study results indicate that four of the five shopping orientation factors examined significantly underlie consumers' attitudes toward direct marketing, i.e., too much direct mail, like to examine product before purchase, retail people are pushy and past direct marketing experience. The results also suggest that consumers' attitudes toward direct marketing significantly influence their intention to patronize direct marketing offerings but not vice versa.

Fishbein and his associates' attitude model have received the greatest amount of attention (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980; Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975). Accordingly, the framework adopted here is Fishbein's attitude towards object model (Fishbein, 1963; Fishbein and Ajzen, 1967). Concerning direct marketing, Fishbein's attitude-toward object model would suggest that consumer attitudes are a function of how positively or negatively its various attributes are evaluated. Thus, consumers' overall attitudes toward direct marketing would be positive if they relate positively to direct marketing attributes and negative if vice versa (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980). Although some past studies have examined the determinants of consumers' attitudes toward direct marketing, the emphasis has been on personal or individual factors, e.g., venturesomeness, perceived risk, and social status (Gehrt and Carter, 1992). Attention is yet to focus on the influence of direct marketing attributes on consumer attitudes. Another study explores the influence of five shopping orientation variables as determinants of consumers' attitudes toward direct marketing, i.e., too much direct mail, like to examine product before purchase, enjoy shopping, retail people are pushy, and past direct marketing experience (Ishmael R Akaah et al., 1995).

Most studies of consumers' attitudes toward direct marketing have sampled U.S. consumers, focusing on direct marketing techniques (Brezen, et al., 1987) and general attitudes toward marketing (Gaski, John P., and Elzcl, Michael J., 1986). Surprisingly, there has been little research on attitudes toward direct marketing among consumers outside the U.S. Although there have been cross-national examinations of consumers' attitudes toward marketing (Barksdale, et al., 1982), the issues linked to direct response, such as privacy, have not been investigated. Nonetheless, understanding international consumers' attitudes toward direct marketing and privacy is important because these attitudes can affect response rates and also impact direct marketing regulation (Milne, et al., 1984).

Milne (1996) identified factors influencing consumers' attitudes toward direct marketing and consumer privacy issues which suggest that three factors are important: (a) adherences to individual rights, (b) demographics, and (c) direct marketing experience. His model is deemed central in ascertaining the attitude of international consumers which are outside US.

Experience with attitudes toward direct marketing and consumer privacy is shaped by the level of direct response activity. In countries where direct marketing is in its infancy, direct marketing is not as closely scrutinized by consumers. Experience in the U.S. has shown that as consumers become more aware of direct marketing, they also become more concerned about privacy (Equifax, 1990; Equifax, 1991).

A study has been conducted to have an understanding of Japanese attitudes and beliefs about direct marketing. The lack of understanding of consumer attitudes and beliefs can lead direct marketers to make offers and appeals that are ineffective, or possibly even offensive, to the Japanese. This study compares the attitudes of Japanese and U.S. consumers toward direct marketing and its regulation. In particular, the research focus on (1) attitudes toward telemarketing, (2) privacy concerns associated with direct marketing practices, and (3) attitudes toward the current level of regulation of direct marketing practices. The authors propose that the high-context nature of Japanese communication and the collectivistic nature of Japanese culture have an impact on attitudes toward direct marketing and its regulation. The results of a survey of Japanese and U.S. university students suggest that certain types of direct marketing messages are less effective in Japan than in the United States. The results also indicate a greater willingness by Japanese respondents to support regulation of direct marketing practices.

Another study is conducted to construct a theoretical framework of international consumers' attitudes toward direct marketing which compares the survey results of Argentina with US. This study investigates how consumers from different countries and cultures feel about consumer privacy. In the U.S., the Equifax Consumer Privacy Survey (Equifax, 1990; Equifax, 1991) has served as a baseline measure of consumers' attitudes toward privacy and direct marketing. This study develops and tests a conceptual model of international consumers' attitudes toward direct marketing and privacy issues by replicating portions of the Equifax survey in Argentina and comparing these results to U.S. consumers' responses.

Cultural factors are another factor that can shape consumer attitudes (Cateora, Philip R., 1993). These factors can have a strong impact on individual responses and sometimes overshadow the impact of other individual background factors such as education

Individual factors also affect consumers' attitudes. Previous direct marketing studies show that consumers' attitudes toward privacy vary based on demographics and psychographic factors (Equifax, 1991; Wang & Petrison, 1993; Milne & Gordon, 1994). Based on U.S. research, younger, better educated, and more affluent individuals should be more receptive to direct marketing activities.


Men are found to entail more negative attitude than women towards direct mail, according to the new survey recently published under the auspices of Oce. It has announced these findings of its survey to the consumers to understand the attitudes towards direct mail solicitation and its impact on their daily lives. Simon Wheeler, business unit director at Oce, said: “We in the print industry really need to understand what captures the imagination of those receiving our printed literature, so that we can all be involved in more focused and meaningful communications”.

He further stated that the research showed that everybody oftenly receives some sort of direct mail and people were more receptive to read it when at homes (approximately two thirds) rather than in their offices (around two per cent to five percent).

Moreover, Men were more anti-direct mail advertising than women, (over one third) saying they intentionally never read any direct mail. Besides that, almost 50 percent of respondents in Scotland said that they also never found any direct mail literature of interest.

The research also found that they were also most likely be influenced by the pictures of people alike themselves - showing identical lifestyles and ages - with nearly one third articulating that this could make them more involved in the direct mailing piece.

Wheeler commented: “These findings highlight the need for all of us to be more focused in our approach within the print industry. We need to work closely with our partners in both the spheres of marketing and print to understand what really drives the end consumer, or recipient, so that we can provide something of greater value and relevance to them.”(Ruth Mortimer, 2009)


Direct mail is regarded as a valuable business channel by the boards and senior management teams of organizations, according to marketers. Marketing Week's Direct Mail Attitudes research reveals that 56% of marketers believe that direct mail carries weight with the board and top executives at their organization. However, 30% of the respondents believe that direct marketing is not taken seriously at the executive levels of their businesses.

Russel and Ayer (1988) attempted to determine the effects of a direct-mail campaign on the attitudes of managers and presidents of industries toward the mentally retarded. The participants in the study were 99 managers and presidents selected from a total population of 4290 within the State of Alabama, USA. Random sampling techniques were utilized to select and assign managers and presidents into an experimental group (n = 50) and a control group (n = 49), giving a total usable sample size of 99. The size of this sample was adequate to insure that, in 19 out of 20 cases, the sample mean was within 0.50 points of the population mean on the response scale according to Elliot (1980). The major finding of this study revealed positive attitude gains from the test for the experimental group following the direct-mail campaign. The results of this research contribute further information on a direct-mail approach for changing attitudes of managers and presidents of industries toward mentally retarded persons


Russell T, Ayer FE., 1988).

As a marketer from a large retailer with more than 5,000 staff reports in the research: “Direct mail still provides one of the highest returns on investment when carried out in a targeted and controlled way.” Another marketer from the financial sector in a business with several hundred employees adds: “DM is often overlooked as ‘expensive'. But in terms of offering measurability of campaign and marketing spend effectiveness, it is second to none as a channel for customer acquisition.”

Optimism is also seen in marketers' response to the recession. Just 5% think the economic climate has had a “very bad” effect on the industry, while 7% think that it has not been affected at all. Even those with less polarized views tend to take a moderate approach, with 22% thinking that there has been a “bad effect” on the industry, compared with 31% who think DM has only suffered a comparable amount to other marketing disciplines and 28% who think there has only been a “slight effect”.

The postal strikes over the last month have, however, had a major impact on how marketers are planning their campaigns for the next year. The frustrations are clear. One respondent from a company with less than 50 staff complains: “The threatened/ongoing post strikes decimate any thoughts of timings, which means the only sensible course is electronic mail, which is now really the only solution.” This may be the reason why interactive direct marketing is currently proving more popular than its paper counterpart. Indeed 45% of marketers say that they are using interactive DM methods, while 33% are using physical direct mail in their businesses.

A respondent, who acts as head of marketing for a large financial group with more than 5,000 staff, warns: “Mail-based physical DM is under severe threat from interactive and web-based methods. Throw in the uncertainty of postal services in the UK and my 2010 plan will start to see less and less reliance on physical means.” A fellow marketer also warns that mail arriving late means that money-off coupons or vouchers could have expired before they reach the target audience, which indicates “a potential reputational risk”.

Another reason why digital direct mail may have generated more interest than traditional forms is the environmental impact of using paper in marketing materials - 54% of marketers claim that “green” issues affect the amount of direct mail that they carry out, although 46% say this doesn't have an impact. But 22% of marketers report that they are using both physical and interactive techniques together for the best results. One marketer from a leisure firm with less than 50 employees claims they use both techniques to complement each other. “Direct mail - both online and offline - works very efficiently and profitably for us with good overall return on investment,” he says.

And with the popularity of email marketing and online forms of direct mail, some even suggest that physical mail may have better impact in future. Simply too many firms are now using interactive methods and, as a result, they may have lost their charm. One automotive marketer points out: “With the growth of online DM alternatives, together with the economic situation, there is a significant reduction in ‘junk mail' being received through the post. Thus, it is creating a far more beneficial return on investment (ROI) and reply rate.”

But as yet there seems to be no agreement among marketers on just what response should be generated by a “successful” DM campaign; 42% claim that a 5-10% rate would be acceptable to them, but in practice just 22% see this result, with more than half revealing that their response rates fall below 5%.

Low response rates need not be a problem if brands target the right people. A marketing director from the events industry says: “Mailings are getting smaller and more personal; these are the ones that are effective.” Other effective ways of getting consumers to respond to DM materials include using vouchers (23% advocate this) and money-off promotions (24% suggest these). Other anecdotal suggestions by marketers for what works well include “shock tactics”, “calls for donations” and “free gifts”.

As one global marketer puts it: “Ultimately, DM should encourage a dialogue with consumers. This medium can help build relationships, which in turn depends on openness and trust. Experiment and test, but remember the consumer's right to privacy and the need to make a good return on investment.”

Angus Morrison, Director of Royal Mail's MMC (Mail Media Centre) states that despite the recession, postal disputes and the growing trend to all things digital, it seems that Marketing Week's readers are still relatively upbeat about direct mail and believe that their board realizes the value of DM as an integral part of their marketing mix.

The Campaign Effectiveness study by Quadrangle also gives an equally positive picture for mail. In this survey, 16% of respondents work for organizations employing more than 5,000 people, while 25% are employed by businesses with less than 50 staff. Respondents were drawn from all types of organisations, with 21% from financial brands, 9% from not-for-profit bodies and 7% from consumer goods companies. 42% of respondents are marketing managers, 10% are marketing directors and 9% are direct marketing managers. Findings imply that 56%of marketers believe that direct mail carries weight with the board and top executives at their organization; 30% of respondents believe that direct marketing is not taken seriously. Just 5% think the economic climate has wreaked a “very bad” effect on the industry, while 7% think that it has not been affected at all. 45%of marketers use interactive direct marketing methods, 33% use physical direct mail and 22% use both together. 42% consider a 5-10% DM response rate to be acceptable to their business, 34% are satisfied with less than 5% and 2% demand an over 30% response rate. In practice, just 22% see a 5-10% response rate, while 52% of respondents see less than 5% response rate to their direct mail. Most marketers (38%) use DM as a “call to action”, 24% use it for new offers or discounts and 16% use it for general brand building duties. 61% think the Direct Marketing Association should be in charge of regulating DM, 22% favor government regulation and 9% think brands should self-regulate.


Direct marketing is growing and expanding into global markets, and should continue to do so for the near future (Akhter, Syed H., 1994). Much of this expansion is due to the rapid improvements in technology, making the practice of direct marketing more feasible (Schultz, Don E., 1994). A fundamental issue that needs to be addressed is how consumers in different countries respond to direct marketing activities (Akhter, Syed H., 1994).

Lisa Chittenden, Ruth Rettie (2003) Identified the factors which have been found to enhance response rate in direct mail advertising. They analyzed 30 e-mail marketing campaigns among industry experts to spot the factors associated with larger response rates; the following factors were found to be connected with high response rate: subject line, e-mail length, incentive, number of images. The response process model suggests that there are three stages in effective e-mail marketing: getting the recipient to open the e-mail, holding their interest and persuading them to respond, hence response rate should depend on the e-mail header as shown in the in-box, the e-mail contents and the recipient. The quantitative research supports this model, with a significant correlation between response rate and subject line, e-mail length, incentive and number of images. Regression on e-mail length and number of images accounted for 54 percent of the variance in response rate. For nine of these campaigns it was possible to associate demographic and lifestyle data to the response. Analysis of this data for nine campaigns found a higher response for respondents who had bought online, who were aged 30—34 or who had incomes over £35,000. These may relate to length of Internet use and early Internet demographics, but unfortunately it was not possible to test this. While this would augur well for the industry as e-mail marketing response rate would increase with length of Internet use, the dramatic growth in 'non-permissioned' e-mail marketing or spam may undermine the development of acquisition e-mail marketing. Examination of these campaigns suggests that recipients who bought online have higher response rates.


Objectives of direct mail may be formulated in terms of: cognitive effects (e.g. transferring information, brand awareness); affective effects (e.g. image building); and behavioral effects (e.g. accomplishing sales or information inquiries). According to conventional wisdom, the realization of objectives of direct mail is said to depend on, in order of importance: the quality of the list; the characteristics of the (commercial) offer; the creative elements or the design of the mailing; and the timing of the mailing (e.g. Roberts and Berger, 1989, p. 7). Thus improving the effectiveness of direct mail response implies improvement along these factors.

In order to establish a theoretical framework for response optimization, Vriens first started by investigating the process of responding to a direct mail offer. Three critical behavioral components can be distinguished in this process: the prospective respondent opening the envelope; the prospective respondent taking notice of the elements of the mail package and the offer; and responding to the offer.

The second step in developing our theoretical framework concerns linking the four factors mentioned above to the various behavioral components. The process of responding may be described as follows: The design characteristics of a mailing influence its attractiveness. The attractiveness of the outside of the mailing (the envelope and the other visible or otherwise noticeable elements) influences the probability of the envelope being picked up and opened. Opening the envelope is prerequisite for taking notice of the other mailing elements (letter, brochure and response device). The attractiveness of the contents of the mailing influences the probability of taking notice of the offer which is made to the potential customer. Finally, the attractiveness of the offer increases the probability of responding.

The quality of the list is an element of the relationship between the background characteristics of the consumers and the elements of the process of responding. The higher the quality of the list, i.e. the more relevant the characteristics that are included in the list, the higher the chance of opening the envelope, taking notice of the offer and/or responding. This is perhaps one of the reasons Vriens target selection is considered most important for response optimization because it operates on all behavioral components.

Research Methodology

As noted by many scholars in the area, the ability to select and administer probabilistic samples is truly difficult in the investigation of managerial response. Sampling for this project was particularly difficult given that managers, particularly CEOs and directors are very difficult to approach and very provide very limited response. Therefore, a non-random sampling method was used to carry out this research.

A self-administered questionnaire was developed, and then pretested with a selected group of respondents to augment its overall design. Results of the pretest revealed minor instances of ambiguous wording (which were subsequently changed) and confirmed the expected completion time for the questionnaire. A total of 150 questionnaires were sent in April and May 2010, of which 60 were returned and deemed valid for data analysis, representing a response rate of 40 percent.

Measurement of Variables

Each of the independent variables and the dependent variable were measured in subsequent sections of the questionnaire. Demographic data were also collected, to allow the researcher to obtain a deeper understanding of the participants' responses.

Direct marketing advertising beliefs and attitudes

This study measured the seven dimensions of attitudes toward direct mail by adopting Pollay and Mittal's (1993) scale to direct marketing. Several steps were taken to ensure the successful adaptation of these measures. The respondents were told that direct mail advertising comes in form of postal mail, which entails information about a product/service, directly to the consumers. Besides that, each of Pollay and Mittal's seven-scale dimensions (product information, social role and image, hedonic pleasure, value corruption, falsity/no sense, good for the economy, and materialism) was operationalized in terms of three or four items regarding direct mail advertising. For each item, respondents were asked to indicate the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with it.

Source: Essay UK -

Not what you're looking for?


About this resource

This Marketing essay was submitted to us by a student in order to help you with your studies.


No ratings yet!

  • Order a custom essay
  • Download this page
  • Print this page
  • Search again

Word count:

This page has approximately words.



If you use part of this page in your own work, you need to provide a citation, as follows:

Essay UK, Direct mail. Available from: <> [20-03-18].

More information:

If you are the original author of this content and no longer wish to have it published on our website then please click on the link below to request removal:

Essay and dissertation help