handwritten letter

Direct Mail: Creating Connections in the Digital Age

By Jennifer Rosales

At this year’s National Postal Forum (NPF) in Indianapolis, we were reminded of the power of mail in an age inundated with digital communications. 

Life Is Not Meant to Be Lived in 2D 

Ivan Cash, award-winning artist, film director, Forbes "2016 30 Under 30" honoree and featured NPF keynote speaker, summed up his thoughts about our Digital Age with this tagline: “Life is not meant to be lived in 2D.”  

Instead of staring at screens and ignoring those around us, Cash described an initiative he spearheaded that used paper-based communications to create connections with others — Snailmail My Email, a global community art project where volunteers write and send out strangers’ emails through the USPS®. Letters ranged from marriage proposals and sweet family greetings to ones more abstract, such as an acceptance letter to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  

Before retiring the project in 2017, Snailmail My Email was responsible for nearly 30,000 letters sent across the globe, all transcribed from digital communications. It’s a success story of the fusion of physical and digital communications, and most importantly, it brought people thousands together through the mail. 

Mail Connections

As mailers, how can we combine digital and physical communication in order to create connections with our customers?  

  • Make everything come alive – Through technology, marketers can interact with their customers in non-traditional ways. Instead of merely sending customers a bill, turn transactional mail into a marketing vehicle: Let customers experience a new product through the use of augmented reality (AR) on your monthly statements. 
  • Be someone they can talk to – Voice assistants have grown by more than 36% of all households in the last year. Mailers, this is your opportunity to show off your intelligence: When coupled with the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) mail tracking technology, voice search could be used to locate important mailpieces throughout the delivery process. “Hey Google, has my vote-by-mail ballot been received at the election office yet?”   
  • Personalize mail in a meaningful way - 78% of consumers will only engage with offers if they have been personalized1. This means marketers need to ask customers for data, with the intention of personalizing it in a meaningful way. Another keynote speaker, Kate MacNevin Global Chief Executive Officer of MRM//McCann described a scenario where if you ask a pet owner for the breed, gender and name of their pet, you can put that knowledge to work in the form of a personalized direct mailpiece addressed to the pet and scented with an aroma appealing to that breed. 

Take a lesson from a millennial: Understand the power of mail as part of an integrated marketing campaign. Contact a Tension Sales expert today for some idea starters. 

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