There is something sweetly nostalgic about the handwritten word. In a world where increasingly we conduct communication electronically, to receive a handwritten note or letter seems rare. Yet, there is something intimate about handwriting. The personal style says something about the sender. It’s a piece of them left on the sheet. If you’ve ever saved a letter from a loved one long gone, you appreciate the sentiments of permanency.
The son of a friend of mine became the recipient of secret Santa notes and gifts this past Christmas. His Mom took to posting the updates on Facebook, to satisfy the anticipation of others, as the notes appeared daily. The thoughtfulness of a couple friends was very evident in the fun, mysterious hand-made packages that arrived for 12 days. And the handwriting revealed much about the senders, even before they were divulged. It created a platform of intrigue and a great story shared by many as speculation grew about the authors of the notes. In an age of rampant electronic communication, the handwritten note captivated.
One of the most successful marketing stunts I ever did was in advance of a speaking engagement at a conference. I was to be talking about marketing in the digital age. But rather than reaching out in the anticipated way, I asked the conference organizers for the postal addresses of attendees. I wanted to send them a hand written post card from Vancouver, inviting them to my session. I sent the cards to the conference organizers who hand addressed them on my behalf so we would be compliant with personal information legislation, and sent them out. My rational was this: Who wouldn’t read a hand written postcard from the most beautiful place on earth? (A little west coast bias there!) What resulted was amazing. I had attendees streaming into my session later that month, holding their post cards, saying they wanted to meet the person who had sent it to them. Of course I was able to quickly dispel any uncertainties about my knowledge of digital media quickly in the session. I had simply chosen to do the unexpected.
There are marketing lessons in both of the above examples.
1. The unexpected gets noticed.
2. Back to basics communications can be a refreshing way to cut through the cutter of our digitized world.
3. There is something universally appealing about the hand written message.
Did you know that National Handwriting Day was January 23, 2014? Apparently the day was founded in 1977 by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association to fight the loss of penmanship. The hash tag #handwritingday on Twitter was filled with Tweets and photos of handwritten notes as well as news coverage by NBC. Seems even in the age of digital, ink on paper can be celebrated!
Could there be anything more basic than the chalkboard? McDonalds in Warsaw, Poland created an outdoor billboard campaign using large chalkboards. The boards featured menu items and the content changed daily. I’m not sure how this would hold up in rainy Vancouver, but it’s an intriguing idea, and a great way to stand out by doing the unexpected.
Here are a few other clever handwritten chalkboards that are bound to capture attention.
And while you can pay someone to illustrate decoratively your board, I think the imperfections of different handwriting can work to your advantage. It made these businesses personable. The chalkboard puts you back in touch with the art of a handwritten message. The pure impermanence of chalkboards also works. The message can be changed daily. And if you’re clever enough, it can almost become a daily update and check in that Facebook has conditioned us to – what will they put out today? You need to have a look.
Whatever “lines of personal connection” you choose to take, in the world of marketing it’s about doing the unexpected and creating intrigue to stand out. In our increasingly digitized and cluttered world, going back to basics can be a way to stand out. And if done with some creativity, you can give your community a story to share and create great word of mouth.