Health lists are growing market

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A common lament among direct marketers is the lack of quality direct response names coming onto the market. Smart marketers are taking advantage of a new "old" market: health lists. Health lists, as a broad category, refer to files of consumers who turn to supplements/vitamins and/or newsletters to improve their health. This is in addition to or, in some cases, instead of conventional medicine.

The health market exploded after the passage of the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. Now there are 20,000 supplements, including herbal and homeopathic remedies, on the market. Before the law's enactment, health marketers had to prove their claims to the Food and Drug Administration. Now they can make those claims as long as they include a disclaimer that the FDA has not evaluated their statements.

"The health audience is skewed to an older, female consumer," said Ken Kretschmar, senior vice president at Rubin Response. These consumers make more impulsive buying decisions and tend to have household incomes of $35,000 to $50,000. The major exception is the predominantly male "potency supplement" market.

Mailers that have found the health market to be responsive include low-ticket gift catalogs, gardening catalogs, fundraisers and magazine, book and newsletter publishers. There are plenty of options to pick from, with almost 700 lists focused on supplement buyers alone.

"Even non-health-related marketers can have great success utilizing the health lists," said Steve Pierce, vice president at Indiana Botanic Gardens, a direct marketer of vitamins and supplements. "Look for growing lists that have a good dollar select and a sizable monthly hotline. The health list market can be a new way for mail-order marketers to target the senior market. These buyers are looking for unique health solutions that aren't easily found at retail - certainly a very receptive audience for direct mail."

Mr. Pierce also noted "a huge growth in demand from the Hispanic market for health-related products - but they are definitely a younger audience. We should see this trend continue, with more of the bigger health lists offering Hispanic buyer selects."

The health market will continue to grow. According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, beginning in 2011, the population 65 and older will grow faster than the total population in every state.

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