Author: Tracey Hofmann
August 29, 2023

No matter how much we digitize and automate our world, as tactile beings who appreciate our sense of touch, we still prefer paper. Print ads have a lasting effect on our minds as well, driving higher levels of brand recall than digital ads. So, though we find ourselves in front of screens at every turn, there is still a place for print and other traditional marketing tools in our lives. The humble but influential post card is one such item. Its history goes way back but, if you add in tried-and-true delivery methods with a modern-day touch, it could become your next greatest marketing tool.

The Postcard’s Beginning

In 2001, postal historian Edward B. Proud discovered what is thought to be the first known postcard. The Penny Penates, a picture postcard that is believed to have been created and sent by writer and London-native Theodore Hook back in 1840, sold for $40,000 at an auction in 2002. The hand-painted postcard was a caricature of postal clerks sitting around a giant inkwell. Historians believe that Hook sent the mail piece to himself as a kind of practical joke on the postal service. He inadvertently birthed the postcard.

In 1861, Congress passed an act that allowed printed cards that weighed one ounce or less to be sent in the mail. It was then that John P. Charlton (also pronounced Carlton) of Philadelphia copyrighted a private postal card. This was another step in the postcard’s slow but steady maturation.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, picture and photographic postcards became popular as they met the need to send quick messages at a lower cost than letters. Postcard collecting became a hobby and even got a fancy “study of” name (deltiology, from the Greek word – deltion, meaning small writing tablet). The postcard became the “Facebook post” of its time with its use as souvenirs at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933.

Direct Mail for a Direct Approach

The act of sending unsolicited mail to a targeted audience started even before the postcard. The American Anti-Slavery Society used the earliest form, known Direct Mail, in 1835 when it mailed anti-slavery newspapers to religious and civic leaders in the south. Names and addresses of recipients were found through directories or newspapers. The practice caught on, as retailers began using direct mail circulars to promote their products and generate sales and became an important advertising method in the United States.

In recent years, the volume of direct mail has declined due to the rise of social media platforms and digital marketing opportunities. But, as Forbes suggests, this flooding of the digital marketing world provides a perfect opportunity to be noticed with a direct mail campaign to your target audience.

The Quick Response Code

The UPC code system, invented back in the 1950s to track the mass production of products in grocery stores, was the foundation for the development of the Quick Response (QR) code that we use today. In 1994, employee, Masahiro Hara of Denso Wave (a Japanese automotive company), came up with the idea of the QR code while playing the game Go. Hara recognized that the game’s grid could conceptually offer a way to hold more information than a UPC bar code. Hara knew he was on to something but didn’t realize just how many lives would be touched by it.

The QR Code aided Hara in the automotive industry. He kept the technology free to the public but sold the scanner technology. Cellphones with QR readers were introduced in the early 2000s. Payments for services or products using QR codes became a trusted and easy process. Then, the pandemic struck and suddenly our sense of touch was in question. The QR code aided restaurants, medical facilities, and other businesses a way to carry on while keeping the spread of germs to a minimum. Many have continued their use of QR Code technology.

A Postcard that WOWs

It is amazing how quickly an industry can pivot. The print/mailing industry, which took a hit from an advancing digital world, carries on by looking to the future and advancing its offerings. By adding QR codes to traditional print tools, you can take potential clients immediately to your website, videos, coupons, promotions, or a call-to-action. Looking to boost reviews? Provide your customers a QR code that takes them swiftly and seamlessly to a review site. The United States Postal Service has offered incentive programs to companies who use tactile, sensory, and interactive tactics in their print campaigns. Mailers that qualify enhance the customer experience with eye-catching specialty inks, unique-to-the-touch materials, and dramatic customer digital interactions. Take it a step further by also adding Augmented Reality to your print campaign.

Print to Target | Digital to Expand

As a full-service marketing firm, we see the value in offering traditional tools like the trusty postcard and continuing proven practices like direct mail to hone in on your ideal customer. We also know the vast number of potential clients who can be reached when utilizing digital marketing methods like social media management, Google ad campaigns, and website optimization/SEO. If your audiences are like ours and do not fall into one category, make use of all the above tactics to achieve your communication goals.