Every year, I look back and try to think of the marketing campaigns that really got to me that year. Ones I absolutely loved and fell for—despite knowing all the tricks of the trade and “behind the scenes” psychological manipulation that goes into good marketing.

So what’s my favorite this year? There were certainly lots of contenders, and one would think that being immersed in everything digital, it would be some snazzy social media campaign. But what really got me this year, was some good ole, small time direct mail marketing.  Not only was it effective, but reminded me of the importance of the personal touch, which despite all the great tools at our disposal, can be hard to come by in the mass marketing world.

One day a few weeks ago, I opened my mailbox, and in it was a small card addressed to me. This being the start of the holiday season, I naturally assumed one of my friends who still goes “old school” had sent me a holiday note.  Imagine my surprise when it turned out that of all things, this was a note from the local dry cleaner I had visited just once.

The note said they’d noticed I hadn’t been in for a while and would really enjoy my return business. No incentive, not coupon, just a clearly hand-written note.  Trying to remember the dry cleaner, two things came to mind: the sales clerk was very friendly and I had thought that dry cleaning in Austin (where I‘ve recently relocated to from the East Coast) was surprisingly expensive.

Being a transplant, I didn’t yet have a “go-to” place, but now I certainly do. What’s a few extra dollars when someone takes the time to write me a hand written note? No additional incentive needed.

Those of us who’ve been in direct mail for a while know the power of a handwritten note. And we tend to treat our best to it (high value donors, most frequent givers, etc). Some smart organizations are using hand written notes as welcome “packages” to new folks.  And based on past experience, I happen to know that can work much better than even the fanciest, most colorful kitchen sink welcome package.

Sure, faux fonts are becoming increasingly hard to discern from real hand writing, but even the savviest of us potential donors and constituents can’t help but melt at someone taking the time to write and send a note. And perhaps encourage us to return to your place of “business.” And that is why, in this year of social, mobile, virtual reality overload, my favorite marketing campaign is the most traditional of them all—a good ole handwritten note.

As we turn the page to 2013, what was your favorite marketing campaign from 2012?

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