Playful Postcards

Gaetan Giannini

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With tight economic times at hand there is increasing pressure on marketers to sure up the marketing mix while cutting costs. Tradition has it that under these circumstances we migrate a good portion of our advertising budget into direct marketing. This is still a sound practice, but there are some issues we need to consider.

The first thing that comes to mind is telemarketing. Telemarketing, which has historically been a good tool, has been over used and in many cases abused, causing public outrage, and regulatory attention while rendering it less and less effective and more costly.

Online marketing is something that springs right to mind, but we have to admit that this is a marketing tool that is still evolving. Privacy and SPAM issues will continue to loom over us, and we will always be missing potential customers who are “un-plugged" or just disinterested in the Internet. Now, we do continue to recommend online marketing, but only where it has its place. Specifically, for existing customers and contacts, especially those with whom you transact with online or via email already. Double opt-in lists are becoming increasingly more attractive as well.

That leaves us with the old workhorse, direct mail. Yes, direct mail has its challenges. Particularly troubling is the sea of unsolicited mail that arrives on all of our desks daily. To compound that we are uncertain if our envelopes are getting open, and if they are we are not sure who is opening them. The solution: Postcards. Why postcards? Yes, they are less expensive to produce and mail, but that's not what makes them so good. Their strength lies in the fact that they don't need to be opened. Even if the recipient decides to throw the card away we still have a few seconds to reach them with our message between the their in-box and the circular file.

To really get a bang for our buck out of postcards we have to take it one step further and get creative - playful actually. First off, postcards of unusual size, shape and texture stand out in the mail stack and do not easily get shuffled into a stack of papers. In fact, they often fall on the floor and give us an added touch point. Beyond tactile design of the card we can strive make the card so inventive that the message not only reaches the recipient, but it actually gets passed around the office. This is the Holy Grail of direct mail marketing and with a little forethought and creativity it is achievable. We've seen it happen, and talk about low cost per contact and high return on investment - wow!

Gaetan Giannini is the Department Chair and Assistant Professor at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pa. He is also an independent, marketing speaker and consultant. He can be reached at 610-606-4666 x 3427 or


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