At the recent AMA fall celebration hosted by Overit Media, I attended a vibrant panel discussion about the transformation of marketing over the past 30 years. Amidst a sea of valuable insights and recommendations, I also learned that both vinyl and film photography are making a comeback. Indeed, despite being declared dead in the ’80s, vinyl record sales have been climbing for 17 consecutive years. Whether it is the (debatable) quality of vinyl’s sound or just a rose-tinted retro style, it definitely marks a trend. Similarly, film photography is witnessing a resurgence. After ceasing production entirely around 2012, Kodak re-started producing their iconic 35mm Ektachrome film in 2018 to meet the demands of a growing analog photography community.

Is this just nostalgia or a long-overdue equilibrium between the digital and analog worlds? And could there be parallels to the marketing industry?

For decades, we printed and snail-mailed our marketing and sales messages. Our competition was local, and our market’s boundaries were defined by geography. We knew our competitors by name and number. We were a big fish in a small pond – the mailbox.

The birth of social media opened a market with (technically) no geographic borders and a seemingly endless sea of billions of potential clients. Much like the film and music industries, marketing pivoted to digital. Offline became outdated, and online marketing was the new way to go.  

And yet, with this apparently infinite audience comes a downside. Space on social media is not infinite. Time, or the lack thereof, is the new limitation. The average American spends about 30 minutes per day on Instagram browsing through hundreds of posts, reels, and stories. Our marketing message not only rivals 200 million businesses using state-of-the-art data mining tools, but also nonprofits, community associations, school groups, and emotional connections like cousin Carlo’s trip to Nepal, Lamonda’s wedding, and Aunt Berta’s adorable dog. 

And while we are jockeying for the best position in the digital space, our physical mailboxes became increasingly empty.

When did we last find something genuinely captivating in our mail besides insurance bills and Andersen Renewal advertisement? 

Walking to the mailbox used to be a daily activity filled with anticipation. Letters? Invitations? Festive Greeting Cards? Not anymore. Even the holiday season, which once ensured a steady flow of beautifully crafted stationery and personalized sentiments, has scattered over various social media and email accounts, where digital greetings drown in the flood of seasonal promotional campaigns and automated abandoned cart emails.

So swinging back to snail mail, premium stationery, and handwritten envelopes might not just be marketing nostalgia. It could be an excellent opportunity to connect with our audience and the-old-way-becoming-the-new-way of standing out in today’s barren mailboxes.

Dagmar Trippen 09/2023