Who’s Mailing What! – A Tool from the Golden Age of Direct Mail Tool Gets a Data-Powered Update

In the 1960s, the marketer Ed Mayer set out a formula: “Success in direct marketing is 40% lists, 40% offers and 20% everything else.”


Mayer’s formula is still valid today, maybe more than ever. Data is the king of mail. Spray-and-pray mass mailings are giving way to more targeted practices. Segmentation strategies enable brands to build a deeper understanding of customers and prospects, and then target them based on demographic and behavioral factors. Personalization combined with digital printing enables true 1-to-1 marketing.


But what about the other 60%?  What offers, headlines, formats, images and creative strategies drive successful direct mail campaigns?


For years, there was no deep analysis of what was truly working in direct mail. That began to change in 1978, thanks to copywriter and author Denny Hatch.


At a Direct Mail Writer’s Guild luncheon in New York, featured speaker Dorothy Kerr, Circulation Director of U.S. News & World Report, 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, Hatch began collecting direct mail samples and analyzing them. Starting in the fall of 1984, he started making them available to fellow copywriters and marketers through a newsletter and archive service called “Who’s Mailing What!”


In 1992, Who’s Mailing What! was purchased by NAPCO Media, which began putting it online in 2002. In 2019, Wyzoo Marketing Intelligence acquired and relaunched Who’s Mailing What! Wyzoo was founded by a team of data experts and entrepreneurs. They use artificial intelligence and human intelligence (AI + HI) to help enterprises improve business decisions and outcomes. At Who’s Mailing What!, they saw an opportunity to combine their expertise with 1.2 terabytes of rich data. They applied machine learning and modern analysis to mine the data and built a platform that provides insight that marketers can use to improve copy and design, increasing direct mail ROI. The number of mail pieces added annually to the database has increased by 13 times compared to previous years.  Thanks to an optical recognition algorithm, full-text search has been implemented. It is a feature that lets members easily find mail that matches their keywords.


What does the massive Who’s Mailing What! database contain? For starters, there are 21 major mailing categories (e.g., retail, non-profits, finance, and healthcare) and over 85 subcategories reflecting mailings for all purposes. You can see samples from thousands of companies, including examples of controls and grand controls.


Successful mailings often become controls, serving as the baseline for testing variation. When a mailing has been a control for three or more years, longevity elevates it to the status of a grand control. Wyzoo analyzes the most successful, money-making formats against four decades of collected data, extracting insight to determine what can make a future mailing successful.


If direct mail represents a significant portion of your marketing budget, Who’s Mailing What! is worth investigating because the searchable, subscription-based service can help you make profitable choices.


New samples are added each month, so there are always new sources of inspiration and insight to view.


Peter Sondergaard, Senior Vice President of Gartner Research, said, “Information is the oil of the 21st century, and analytics is the combustion engine.” For direct marketers who want to improve results, Who’s Mailing What! is the data-driven vehicle you can use to accelerate success.