Throwback Thursday Direct Mail: CompuServe

The world was a very different place 25 years ago, but the desire for success, as this classic direct mail package shows, is timeless.

Mailer Name: CompuServe
Date Mailed: July 1991

CompuServe_01After dominating much of the 1980s as a more technically-oriented and networking service, CompuServe wanted to appeal to a broader consumer market. With project manager Reggie Brady, writer and designer Sol Blumenfeld crafted a package that was heavy – by today’s standards – on touting the benefits of the online service.

The front of the envelope uses a second window to display the prospect’s name on a “Preferred Member” card applied to the reply form inside. Some of the terms of the offer are spelled out there.

In exchange for a one-time fee of $25, the member receives:

  • “Lifetime Access”
  • $25 usage credit
  • a 263-page guide
  • a quick reference booklet
  • a confidential booklet for one’s user ID and password
  • a monthly magazine
  • a wall chart of CompuServe’s services

The letter claims that CompuServe “can help improve your life and the lives of those close to you.” It spends much of the first two pages briefly describing how various services can “advance your career, manage your money more effectively, provide educational resources and entertainment for your family … build a more productive and successful you.”

Among the goodies: stock quotes, databases, technical assistance, news and weather, games, and a shop-at-home service called “The Electronic Mall”. Yes, in 1991.

CompuServe_02The brochure goes into much more detail on how CompuServe’s features benefit the user. “Your PC is a mail box, meeting room and bulletin board” one section begins, listing all of the email, chat, and classified applications offered.

One detail buried in the small type of the Q-and-A: access starts at $6 an hour, depending on your modem’s baud speed. Even with the limited, pre-web offerings at that time, this service could quickly become expensive.

Note: This package was mailed for three years, therefore qualifying it as a Who’s Mailing What! “Grand Control.” With the rise of America Online and introduction of the World Wide Web, CompuServe lost much of its market share during the 1990s. It was acquired by AOL in 1998 and shut it down as an ISP in 2009.

The Takeaway
Redefining success as the ability to network with other people, save time, and learn more is as relevant today as it was twenty five years ago.

Publish date: June 23, 2016 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT