I was half-listening to a programme on BBC Radio 4 recently, during which the reporter remarked, ‘…ripping open envelopes feels like such an old-fashioned thing to do’. This comment struck me as bizarre. I half-wondered if the reporter had removed his letterbox on the grounds that he no longer received post – whether impersonal direct mail or personalised handwritten letters. However, I feel sure he won’t have done so. Any more than he employs a private letter-opening assistant so that he doesn’t have to undertake such a menial task.
While it’s true that we receive much less personalised handwritten mail these days – birthday cards and Christmas cards are major exceptions – business mail isn’t in decline with the rise of the internet, contrary to what some may believe.
Digital response rates are lower
An article by Steven Pulcinella, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2017/08/30/why-direct-mail-marketing-is-far-from-dead/#1056456f311d, quotes the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) which, in a recent report, has found that direct mail achieves a 4.4% response rate compared to 0.12% for email. Not only that, the DMA found that response rates for direct mail are actually anywhere from 10-30 times higher than those of digital. It said that consumers are more receptive to direct mail, which arrives on a much less cluttered channel than email inboxes.
The human experience
Steven points out that even junk mail in your letterbox has something few emails possess – the reality factor. Postal mail has weight, substance and dimension. The Royal Mail, in their study The Private Life of Mail, conclude that the upswing in the use of direct mail and its effectiveness over time is because ‘Giving, receiving and handling tangible objects remain deep and intuitive parts of the human experience’.
I can’t argue with that.
In fact, to take this line of reasoning one step further, I’ve come across a company called Scribblemail that specialises in sending genuinely handwritten direct mail, employing a team of writers in-house. In 5 years they have become one of the largest senders of personalised handwritten direct mail in the world. They claim that when direct mail looks personal, genuine and heartfelt, it increases response rates. Some of their clients are quoted as achieving a 200% increase in response. Now, that is impressive!
All power to the handwritten letter
Back to the reporter who thought ripping envelopes open such an outmoded activity. Far from it. As Scribblemail say in their brochure, because we rarely receive personalised handwritten mail in these automated times, when we see a handwritten letter land on the doormat, we drop everything and rip the envelope open, eager to read what’s inside.
As a copywriter, I’m always spotting addressing errors in machine-produced direct mail. Whereas a machine cannot detect whether names or addresses are spelt incorrectly, someone writing by hand can spot errors and rewrite the offending words. In beautiful script too.