Snail mail is inching its way back into the zeitgeist.
Snail mail is inching its way back into the zeitgeist, a manifestation of one of our 10 Trends for 2012, Objectifying Objects (the idea that as objects get replaced by digital/virtual counterparts, people are fetishizing the physical and the tactile). Lettrs, a recently launched online platform, allows users to upload, save, organize and share physical letters (they can be posted on a virtual refrigerator). Conversely, letters can also be written online, customized with scents and wax seals, and then mailed from a real post office. Earlier this year the online magazine The Rumpus began Letters in the Mail, a subscription service that sends out copies of handwritten letters from well-known authors for $5 a month. And science fiction writer Mary Robinette Kowal encouraged her fans to send one physical letter every week for a month, and respond with another for each letter received.
Physical letters are particularly appealing to Millennials, for whom they represent counterpoints to today’s all-digital, always-on lives. Physical letters are romantic, nostalgic and help their authors stand out from the digital pack. And it seems that physical mail has a way of sticking in the memory that virtual mail doesn’t, according to a 2009 study by Millward Brown for the U.K.’s Royal Mail service. That might account for a resurgence of direct-mail campaigns, which have a higher response rate than digital-only ones. From 2007 to 2009, marketers spent nearly 25 percent less on direct mail, cutting costs by switching to email, but in 2010 and 2011, direct mail began to see modest single-digit growth. Indeed, snail mail is a growing segment of integrated marketing efforts: The U.S. Postal Service projects that marketing mail will rise 14 percent by 2016.