Originally posted on my old blog in April 2013, but still appropriate.
Nearly eighteen months ago, a small cardboard box landed on my desk. In it was a carefully chosen granite coloured beach pebble, the size of a plum, and a note from a local PR company that simply said “we’re only a stone’s throw away. Give us a call”. Sadly I didn’t need a PR company at the time, but I loved it and I did drop them an email to say ‘nice moves’.
Late last year another, larger, box arrived in the post; this time it contained a white phone. A real landline phone - the kind no one has anymore. The note said “now you have no reason not to give us a call”. Natch. It was cute. Almost too cute. When a bag of sweeties arrived just after Christmas I knew who had sent it without having to look. I remembered their name well and today I was really happy to hire them. Hell, if they had worked that hard to get my attention....
I think my fondness for sending things in the post comes from a friend at school, who used to test the post office’s tolerance and tenacity by sending his brother a succession of ever-stranger objects without packaging; unboxed and in the raw. This was the late eighties when the Royal Mail was super sharp, but amongst other things he stamped and addressed an apple with an arrow through it - delivered intact in two days; a marmite sandwich - varnished for rigidity, but delivered overnight; and four Matchbox cars - posted together but delivered individually on four consecutive days (bravo Postie, that showed elan). They drew the line at the full-sized surfboard no matter how many stamps it had.
When I started working for a PR company in the early nineties I was delighted, obviously, to discover that innovative attention-grabbing postal campaigns were de rigueur. One of my favourites was to invite notoriously hard to reach magazine beauty editors (Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire etc) to the Department of Health’s first ever Sun-sense skin cancer awareness campaign launch. We found a company that would pack small items into air-filled transparent bags and in small, see-though pillows, sent them one whole, blemish-free tomato and in another a sun-dried tomato with the invite. Nearly all of them turned up.
I love the crazy power and limitless reach of digital communication but now more than ever, it’s very hard to jump out of my inbox and really get my attention. I get up to 80 unsolicited emails a day but may be only one or two bits of post a week. This isn’t a piece in praise of direct marketing, junk mail and postal spam - Royal Mail carpet bombing is a crime against the doormats of humanity. This is a piece about sending the right thing, to the right person at the right time. This is about thinking inside the box. Thinking hard about the real human at the other end you’re trying to hook and sending something tactile, thought provoking and memorable.