Monday, February 08, 2010

AT&T's direct mail - genius or irritating?

I hate snail mail. Except when I don't. I'm the type of person who so rarely checks the real mail box, the mailman has more than once had to knock on our door to ask us to empty the box because he can't jam any more inside :)

But every now and then, there's a piece of mail that captures my attention. Sometimes it's even useful.

Here's a couple recent examples.


Normally all coupons and promotions are easy to spot and I throw them in the trash. But there was a very plain unmarked envelope that I noticed. All it said was "Valued AT&T Customer" and my address.

So the "Valued" part looks handwritten. For some reason, anything handwritten seems to grab my attention since this piece of mail looks like it could have been a letter or invitation from a friend. Or at the very least, someone took the time to write me something by hand, so that might be something at least friendly to read.

Opening up the mail, it's an offer for something :) Damn. But the offer did try and keep this ruse up.

The letter looks like it was photocopied, but then "a friend" went ahead and used a blue marker to highlight the super important parts for me :)

In the end their offer or execution failed to keep my interest or get me to care. And on closer inspection of the envelope you'll notice it's not actually handwritten text. Each of the same letter looks identical. This is machine made.

But they got me to open the envelope which is an impressive feat.

Sapori Trattoria

There's an italian restaurant near my house. We didn't love it the first time we went there. But the owner has some great ways of pulling people back in. He mails them half off coupons on their half birthday. Who on earth recognizes your half birthday?

Not only that but the mail that he sends you is a little like the AT&T example, except it's really handwritten. In fact, the entire envelope that he sends is littered with real handwritten text about "Happy Birthday" "Can't wait to see you", etc. It really catches your eye when you see it because you think it's a friend of yours trying to send mail from prison or something and he only has so much room to write.

I definitely opened up that envelope. And went back a second time.


I'm curious if direct snail mail is a lost art. I'm also curious how it might still be utilized by software companies today that tend to do most of their marketing and business online. For example, could 37signals send out postcards to small businesses to introduce them to Basecamp with some success?

If they did, I'd recommend handwriting at least the address on the envelope.

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