From postcards to personalised marketing: How direct mail has evolved

When you think of direct mail, mass-produced catalogues and bank statements most probably spring to mind. However, post has historically been emotionally-led, and we’re seeing a revival of this trend today. Emotionally intelligent brands are recognising this and leading the way with truly personalised marketing.

A short history of direct mail

It’s funny how trends cycle back around. To really understand the role that handwritten direct mail can play in our lives today, let’s consider how it came to be popular in the first place.

While the US Postal Service was born in 1775, it wasn’t until Valentine’s Day was invented in the 1840s, and postcards became popular in the 1870s, that people really fell in love with receiving post thanks to its tactile and fun, yet deeply personal nature.


What handwritten direct mail means to us today

Today email and instant messaging have soared in popularity, and our screens are constantly filled with notifications. We’re definitely sending less post than we used to, even on your birthday you are more likely to receive birthday texts and WhatsApp messages than  handwritten cards. Despite this though, the desire to receive handwritten mail has never gone away - in fact, the scarcity of it can make the recipient feel particularly loved.

Bills, statements and mass mailers often land on our doorsteps, but handwritten envelopes are reserved for the occasional card or invite. These are the first in the pile to be opened, and given prize position on the mantelpiece or pinned on the kitchen noticeboard, rather than landing straight in the recycling bin unopened.


Why direct mail matters now more than ever before

The rise of the internet has made communication instant and effortless – yet post still plays an important role in our everyday lives. For instance, it’s been proven that Millennials prefer to pay their bills online, and share birthday cards by post. Why is this?

Online forms of communication offer unparalleled speed and convenience, and are thus perfectly suited for simple transactions that require little consideration. Individuals are unlikely to have deep emotive responses to council tax, car insurance or bank statements, so instant online access often trumps direct mail in this instances.

In contrast, many of us still enjoy receiving postcards from that friend who’s travelling the world, despite being kept up to date through their Instagram feed. We love opening party invites, whether or not the details were shared in a WhatsApp group a week ago. Direct mail makes 75% of Millennials feel special precisely because it wasn’t sent by a click of a button – it feels good to receive something that the sender spent time and effort on.

What’s more, handwritten direct mail can make all the difference to consumer perceptions. A recent study of health-focused restaurants found that diners were more likely to believe food was nutritious, locally grown and prepared with care when menus looked handwritten. Handwriting also helped solo diners to feel less lonely, and encouraged customers to interact with the restaurant’s brand on social media.

With the world growing more digital, technology can remove some of that human warmth that consumers often respond to. Something as simple as handwritten direct mail can subconsciously create perceptions of love, care, warmth and connection.


How handwritten direct mail can support your personalised marketing

More than ever, consumers are becoming blind to email marketing, online advertising and social media promotions. This digital fatigue is hurting marketing departments in pretty much every sector, but there is another way.

We believe the emotional sentiment behind handwritten direct mail can be utilised by brands, if done correctly. Ensure your direct mail campaigns incorporate these three essential qualities:

Authenticity – Your direct mail campaign needs to connect with consumers and feel human. If you’re approaching a cold lead, for instance, being overly-familiar could be off-putting. It’s  vital to consider your brand voice – how do you want to be perceived?

Purpose – Just firing out Valentine’s Day cards to each and every customer is unlikely to show the best results. Just as with any marketing campaign, direct mail requires a bigger picture plan with set goals, strategies and measurements.

Efficiency – While handwritten direct mail can offer great rewards, it can also require a big commitment of time and effort on the part of your marketing department. We suggest finding a way to make the medium work within your current business processes. Inkpact’s technology platform and 250+ strong human Scribe Tribe offers convenience, self-service options and advanced automations.

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