Baby, Come Back ...
Some people collect stamps, or coins, or salt shakers, or whatever. Me — I collect direct mail. Enough of it that the word "hoarder" has been spoken, but I'm not bad enough yet for an episode of that show on A&E.
I keep it because looking at the mail collectively, you see the ebb and flow of our industry. You can see what's currently working, what's falling out of favor or what's enjoying a revival. You can see all the different ways we adapt to new postal regulations that cramp our creative style or bust our budgets.
You can also watch things like what seems to be a "premium arms race" happening in the environmental market these days. Apparently one tote bag isn't enough anymore. One nonprofit recently offered me a colorful set of four bags as enticement to renew my membership.
I'm holding out on that organization and everyone else for a while yet, though. I deliberately became a lapsed donor (13+ months) in early 2010 in order to receive more reinstatement and acquisition mail, to see how nonprofits would endeavor to woo me back.
And woo they have, with verve
Overall, I noticed a rising use of note card packages. Almost all are closed-face baronial envelopes with real or simulated handwritten addressing and the automation barcode moved away from the recipient's address. Sometimes no organization name is on the envelope to identify who the card is from; on others the return address is also handwritten. All have live stamps, usually uncanceled nonprofit. Adding a mailer's cancellation mark across the stamp — since the U.S. Postal Service doesn't — would make these packages look even more like First Class mail.
The cards inside vary greatly. They go from the incredibly plain with just a logo on the cover to color photographs or illustrations to a personalized message. Some have typed messages that fill the entire inside of the card, while others use only the bottom half below the fold. Some use simulated or real handwriting for all or part of a personalized message; others are printed without personalization. Most have reply slips but not all.