4 Great Ways to Use a Postcard in Direct Mail (Besides Mailing One)

When I travel, I usually send a postcard or two to friends and family, reminding them of where I am. I often opt for the cheesier ones. You know the ones I’m talking about.

When I travel, I usually send a postcard or two to friends and family, reminding them of where I am. I often opt for the cheesier ones. You know the ones I’m talking about.

Maybe they have a badly outdated picture, or a city’s name emblazoned across the front.

And sometimes, I’ll scrawl a cliched: “Having a wonderful time … Wish you were here” on the back.

Anyway, while buying some new ones the other day, I thought about other ways postcards can be an effective element in many direct mail efforts. Here are a few.

1. Go Somewhere New
amexdpostcard_01This postcard was the perfed front panel of a self-mailer that American Express mailed last year. It uses a tropical scene to draw in a prospect for the company’s Gold Delta Airlines SkyMiles credit card. One of the inside panels lists the many travel benefits of getting and using the card. For example, new members can earn miles bases on their purchases. And their first checked bag is free when traveling on the airline

2. Talk With Your Network
oatpostcard_01Call it a friends and family discount, or member-get-a-member. Asking your customers to reach out to people they know to help sell your product or service can be a powerful tool.

Overseas Adventure Travel, a tour operator often reaches out to its past customers for referrals for its many trips. A recent envelope mailing included a sheet of 5 perfed jumbo postcards, each showcasing one of its destinations. The reverse side offers “3 Reasons to Travel” to that location, like Peru. For letting their loved ones know in a colorful way where they’ve been, the traveler earns rewards, plus savings for their friend.

3. Leverage Your Assets
nytpostcard_01When you create and control good, valuable content, why not let everyone know that?

This postcard features an iconic photograph of President Kennedy that originally ran in the New York Times back in 1961. It was mailed in a subscription package for the newspaper a few years ago. According to that effort’s letter, it was intended “to provide a vivid snapshot of what you will find in the Times.”

Another good example: the National Museum for Women in the Arts mailed postcards for years as part of its membership acquisition package. Each one featured a work from a woman artist that came from its collection.

4. Work for Change
ifawpostcard_01As a component of a fundraising appeal, the postcard can be an effective involvement device to advocate for change. Examples abound in Who’s Mailing What! but many of them generally build brand and not much else.

This exception to the rule was mailed by International Fund for Animal Welfare. It’s part of a campaign to stop the declining numbers of rhinos in South Africa. The front includes a stark caption to accompany a cute image. The reverse side contains a message to the country’s Minister for the Environment, asking for an end to poaching and slaughter.

The common element in all of these cases is that the postcard’s job is to inspire an action.

It is not enough to be eye-catching, or look pretty; the postcard has to make a connection — maybe several of them— to be relevant to the customer or donor.


You’ll Get My Attention With a Giant Squirrel

Almost anyone who’s flown more than a couple of times knows what the safety instructions entail on a commercial flight. And so most of us ignore them. Delta Airlines recognized this, and chose to create a series of safety videos full of pop culture references and humor to convince even the most seasoned flier to pay attention.

Delta squirrelI recently got back from a short vacation to Key West (yeah, yeah, humble brag), but I’m not going to regale you with photos. What I want to talk about is Delta’s airline safety, content marketing and storytelling.

I’ve been flying for 28 years, so I’m a pretty seasoned airline traveler. I jockey for a good position in line as I wait for my zone to be called, focus on getting my gear stowed, butt in my seat, seat belt buckled and book out to read as quickly as possible. I don’t mess around.

I also have heard the safety announcements so many times that I tune them out, a problem Eddie Izzard recognized during his comedy show, “Glorious.”

For my flight to Key West, I was prepared to do my usual ignoring of the flight attendants. Instead they announced there’d be a safety video. Oh goodie. Yawn.

But when I saw out of the corner of my eye a giant squirrel putting an oversized acorn into the overhead compartment within the first 13 seconds of the video, I stopped reading, and slipped my bookmark between the pages.

I watched the rest of the 4 minute and 39 second video. I heard people giggling. The kids behind me exclaimed, “Mom! Mom! It’s Yo Gabba Gabba!”

That’s right.


When the safety video ended, I was smiling. Delta had entertained me, reminded me about the usual safety drills, and managed to stay in the forefront of my mind for a solid week between my flight and when I wrote this week’s post. I told my aunt and uncle about the video when I met up with them in Key West. I sent links to the video to my best friend as I was writing this post. I told my dad — also a seasoned traveler — about the video Sunday night on the phone.

You’d think Florence + The Machine dropped a new album. Or that Jon Bonham had come back from the dead. Nope. A Delta airlines’ safety video had me talking.

As I think about it more, the entertaining safety video shows me that there are some creative problem solvers at Delta. The problem they faced was that most passengers tune out the flight attendants sharing safety instructions.

The solution, then, was to use the airline’s sense of humor to tell a story of safety, creatively. From Delta’s News Hub:

Delta launched a series of safety videos beginning in late 2012 meant to grab the attention of even the most seasoned travelers by using pop culture references, surprises and guest appearances — all to communicate important safety messages.

The video I saw during my flight, launched in August 2015, has over 250,000 views on YouTube. The description below the video on the YouTube page reads:

Safety information is information that no one should miss, even if they’ve heard it a dozen times. So to help encourage even the most frequent of frequent fliers to pay attention we’re constantly adding fresh scenes and moments of fun. It’s part of Delta’s commitment to making every part of our passengers’ flight a memorable one.

A few months prior, Delta released “The Internetest video on the Internet” featuring 22 Internet memes and clocking in at more than 9.5 million views after going viral.


Finally, taking this all to the next level, Delta hosted the SAFETYS on Feb. 28, right before the Academy Awards. Following its Twitter feed starting at 5 p.m., the airline revealed which characters from its previous safety videos were up for a SAFETY award, as well as its newest safety video.


Suffice to say, Delta gets it. The airline understands its core business, sure. But it also understands the importance of storytelling and content marketing, of delighting its customers, and also keeping them safe. And, of course, all of this factors into the airline’s unique selling proposition (USP).

After enduring a stream of disappointing flights on a different airline — ranging from poor customer service to cancelled flights — my flight with Delta really showed what Denny Hatch calls “Customer Relationship Magic.” From the free snacks to the entertaining safety video, as well as arriving at my destination early, Delta wowed me. I look forward to racking up frequent flyer miles with them, especially if they feature more giant squirrels in their videos.