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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

Checking the Mail – The Next Generation

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jul 11, 2014 12:22:00 PM

 

Elite Envelope & Graphics blog photoRemember that AOL feature that excitedly said, “You’ve got mail” whenever e mails showed up in your in-box?  Yes, recently I was reminiscing about the dark ages of the mid 1990’s when I first started regularly using electronic mail on my Gateway pc (the one with the cow markings on the box!).  Hearing that instantly recognizable voice used to impart a bit of a thrill. You didn’t know what was in your in-box but you were about to find out.

Going way back to the Stone Age; i.e. my early youth, I remember getting a similar thrill when the postman would slip the mail through the slot in our front door and I’d hear it dropping on the foyer floor.  Even though I rarely got anything with my name on it in those days, it was still fun to collect the daily mail and look at the envelopes (mostly envelopes with content in those days, not many cards or “mail pieces” as I recall) before I put them on the kitchen counter for my parents and grandparents to sort out. 

When I got a bit older and would spend a couple of summer weeks at Camp Ocawasin in northern New Jersey, getting letters from home was a very big deal and looked forward to with great anticipation and excitement.  The mail was distributed after dinner by one of the camp leaders. He would call everyone individually to come claim his letter. It was understood that if you received more than three letters in one day, you’d be carried outside and thrown into the lake with your clothes on.  I remember writing home imploring my family to spread out the mail so that I never had to suffer this indignity. 

I still have those letters I received at summer camp as well as the ones I wrote home which my mother saved along with everything else and which I retrieved after she died. I also have letters I wrote home and received while away at college in the late 1970’s and later when I got married and started raising my kids.   Occasionally I will read them and be instantly transported to times long ago the specifics of which I would probably only vaguely recall 

And that brings me to the point (yes it’s coming, I swear!) which is simply this:  what will future generations review to garner a glimpse of their past?   Right now they’re immersed in their smart phones; texting, Instagramming, Snapchatting, etc. at every moment, albeit the virtual moment for the most part.  How much of all this incessant back and forth will be available to them twenty years from now?  Probably none of it. I find it interesting that this current generation which spends more time chronicling their every thought and action in excruciating detail will most likely have no record of it whatsoever for their later stages in life.

In order to keep the envelope converting, envelope printing, direct mail, paper and web printing industries viable for the long term, we need to establish some connection between the young folks of today and the written word; i.e. the ink and paper variety.  In order to do that, they need a good reason.  

Here’s my suggestion – free of charge! – to the PR department at the US Postal Service: start a campaign aimed at grammar school aged kids encouraging them to write letters to each other. The content of the letters would just be a recap of what they’re up to and how they feel about it all.  It could be part of a contest where the best written letters win prizes judged by individual teachers.  In order for the letters to qualify for the contest, they would have to be put in an envelope with a first class stamp and mailed to a friend or family member.  A copy of the letter must also be kept by the writer in a file at home.

You might say, writing a letter: how old-school!  Well yes, but also a novelty to today’s youth, no?  The program could be conducted over a five year period with multiple letters written during each school year. Then, after the fifth year, the kids would write a paper reviewing how their lives have changed during that time based on a review of their letters.  How hard can it be to have kids write about themselves?  And after five years I’m sure some will have that “a-ha” moment where they realize that it’s kind of cool to be able to go back and see what you were doing and thinking at various points in your life. 

You might just see your kids excited about what’s coming through the mail slot again: not a bad thing for them or those of us who make a living making that happen.

 

Your thoughts and feedback are, as always, much appreciated.

 

Topics: post office, envelope converting, envelope printing, write a letter, direct mail printing

Spring Cleaning for the Envelope, Print and Direct Mail Mind

Posted by Jerry Velona on May 5, 2014 10:57:00 AM

I put away all my winter clothes yesterday: perhaps a bit prematurely given the vagaries of spring weather in New England but I figured if I ignore the remaining cold days it won’t bother me as much.  (I hear you back there saying, “good luck with that” and your sarcasm is probably warranted)
 
Anyway, I figured I would also clean out my mental closet of some things that have been hanging around all winter such as:
  • Someone in our industry needs to come up with a way to make writing notes on paper a new “thing” among the younger set.  Seeing my almost fifteen year old daughter treat her smart phone as if it were an indispensable part of her anatomy makes me think this might prove to be impossible but it would be worth a try. Maybe some kind of contest on social media would cause interest.  I’m thinking that writing letters could become the new hipster preoccupation in much the same way as listening to music on vinyl records is making a small comeback. Then, it can move from Brooklyn to the rest of America. Connections to paper need be established among the generations that are growing up digitally. Ideas anyone?

  • Recessions tend to accelerate negative trends for certain industries in much the same way that a physical or mental trauma can cause a dramatic worsening in someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.  I’m beginning to think that the financial crisis of 2008/2009 pushed the envelope and printing industry much further along toward decline than would have happened in its absence.  As an industry, we’ve mostly recovered, but at a lower overall level.

  • After a lot of careful consideration, Elite Envelope and Graphics has decided not to renew its FSC certification. We’ve had it for over five years now and it’s proved to be of marginal value at least to us. As an envelope converter, we can convert FSC paper anytime provided we fill out a sub-contractor document for our customer. As far as printing the FSC logo, we have very few customers who require it.  What put us over the edge was the increasingly burdensome annual audit which started to include things like occupational health and safety issues that have nothing to do with FSC supply management.  As many have pointed out, there is already a strong incentive for paper companies to maintain healthy and productive forests. It’s called the profit motive!

  • I understand that our beloved English language is an ever-evolving thing. One of the great things about American-style English is how we incorporate new slang and words that describe new concepts and trends.  Some recent additions to the dictionary have been: “bitcoin”, “buzzworthy”, “selfie” and, sadly, “twerk”.  However, I fail to see why perfectly good words almost become extinct because of shorthand versions. Two current examples are “invite” instead of invitation and “congrats” instead of the full congratulations.  A lot of this is driven by social media’s pervasive pull toward expressing oneself economically.  But the ubiquity of changing “invite” from a verb to a noun seems just a bit too trendy for my taste. I’m sticking with “invitation”!   George Bernard Shaw once commented that America and England are “two nations separated by a common language”. Of course the Brits have their own unique slang.  I know this has nothing to do with printing envelopes or direct mail printing but I feel so much better now!

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, envelope printing, write a letter

What an Envelope Says

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jul 23, 2012 12:20:00 PM

MarshallMcLuhan

In 1964 when Marshall McLuhan wrote the famous phrase, “The medium is the message”, he was suggesting that the carrier of the message could actually convey a message of its own.  He was mostly writing about television and how that technology was changing the culture by bringing more people into a common area in which to view and digest information.

McLuhan would have a field-day writing about the Internet which has taken this concept and run wild.  By some estimates, over three-quarters of American households own computers. If you add mobile computing devices, I’m sure that figure is much higher. Today, just about everyone is wired and accessing digital content of some type.

However, unlike television in the 1960’s which featured a small number of programming options and news filters, the worldwide web has millions of sites and information sources from which to choose.  The number of options, while helpful in many instances, can be overwhelming. When a device, in this case the human brain, becomes overwhelmed it usually shuts down.  Add to this the large number of e mail and text messages that are received and sent in a given day and you have a prescription for information overload. 

Basic economics teaches us that when a commodity becomes plentiful, the price and hence the value diminishes unless the demand continues to outpace the supply. If we view information as the commodity, I believe what we are seeing in large sectors of American society is the cheapening of communication.  There’s so much of it that the individual messages are getting lost or simply disregarded.

So what does all this have to do with envelopes?  Well as digital communication becomes ubiquitous and less valuable it follows that written communication, the kind that comes inside envelopes in your non-virtual mailbox looks better by comparison. It hasn’t been very long since there were regular outcries from individuals and groups about being inundated with “junk mail”.  Interesting that you don’t hear much about that anymore!  Most of the crying is done about spam and spammers (justifiably in my opinion –it can be highly annoying as anyone who’s been plagued in this way will attest).

I’ve written about how sending hand-written notes to people in a business context can really get their attention these days.  Personalized direct mail can serve as a reasonable surrogate to that approach. When the content is relevant and interesting along with high-quality printing and clever design there will be a reasonable curiosity that will cause many folks to open and take a gander.  

And yes, I meant “open” as in take it out of the envelope. Sure I’m biased but I think that postcards or other non-envelope flats don’t carry the same air of anticipation. You really don’t know what’s inside the envelope till you open it and there’s something in all of us that likes a surprise.  Just taking the extra time, care and expense to put something in an envelope says something positive about your mailing which the recipient will intuitively understand; another example of the McLuhan insight where the medium becomes part of the message. 

Mail on!

Topics: direct mail, write a letter, envelopes and printing, printed envelopes, envelopes

Songs about Envelopes and Mail

Posted by Jerry Velona on Mar 20, 2012 10:05:00 AM

A while back I decided to change the music on our telephone hold machine. I thought it might be fun to feature songs associated with our business; most notably envelopes but also mail, letters and letter writing.

At first I concentrated on songs about envelopes in particular. After all, we are an envelope converter, manufacturer and printer and we want to focus attention on our product wherever possible. I thought if you have to be on hold, you might as well be entertained a bit with something a little different.

After doing some research, I was unable to find one song specifically about envelopes. That might have something to do with the fact that it’s a difficult word to rhyme (cantaloupe? Jack lope?  Bar of soap?) However, if you broaden the category, you start hitting the jackpot. Relying mostly on my iTunes account, I found these without too much trouble: Return to Sender (Elvis), The Letter (The Boxtops), Please Mr. Postman (The Marvellettes) and I’m Gonna’ Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter (Fats Waller).  After a little more digging, I unearthed: Strawberry Letter 23 (Brothers Johnson), Mr. Mailman, I Don’t Want No Letter (Little Milton) and the wonderfully sappy early 60’s summer hit Sealed With a Kiss sung by Brian Hyland.

Songs about Envelopes and Mail by Elite Envelope 

Along with way I learned that there is a band called Envelope and another called Glass Envelope. I also discovered a few songs in the house/techno genre that have the word envelope in the title; most likely having to do with sound frequencies.  I decided to leave those alone.

In order to ensure that people didn’t hear the same tunes every time, I enlarged the category further to include songs about working and work in general. Some that I included were: 9 to 5 (Dolly Parton), Working for a Living (Huey Lewis), The Work Song (Cannonball Adderley), Work to Do (Average White Band), 16 Tons (Tennessee Ernie Ford), I’ve Been Working (Van Morrison), Let’s Work Together (Wilbert Harrison) and, my personal favorite, Whistle While You Work (The Seven Dwarfs).  Initially, I also included Take This Job and Shove it by Johnny Paycheck. I thought it was funny but some of our customers didn’t so that one was pulled.

Feedback was mixed. Some enjoyed it and others made comments about the “weird” hold music. For now, we’ve gone back to the old generic hold music. But that won’t deter me from trying to inject a little fun into our business wherever possible. In the meantime I’d love to hear from you with other songs I could add to my list.  

Topics: envelope manufacturer, write a letter, envelopes, songs about envelopes and mail, songs about letters

Direct Mail Can Set You Apart

Posted by Jerry Velona on Feb 27, 2012 10:37:00 AM

One of the interesting aspects of change in American culture is how things generally go from one extreme to the other relatively fast and then slowly but surely settle back more toward the middle. It’s known as “social equilibrium” in sociology circles (not a place where I spend much time admittedly so my apologies to any social scientists out there if I’m misinterpreting this. Then again, if you’re a social scientist and reading this I’m quite flattered!).

As anyone who’s been breathing in the past 20 years is aware, e mail has become ubiquitous. Twenty years ago virtually every company with 10 employees or more had someone answering the phone on a full time basis. These days when I’m on the road making calls, I’ve noticed that fewer and fewer companies with even 20 or 30 employees have someone “out front”.  At Elite Envelope, where we have 20 staff, we now have someone answering the phones and doing billing and some customer service on a part time basis. When she’s not in, the phones are picked up by whoever is in the office at that time.

Some companies just have a voice mail system which picks up. I happen to think that it’s still important and says something positive about your company when a real person answers the phone. The point here however is that while it’s always going to be necessary to conduct certain business over the phone, more and more of the routine stuff is done via e mail. Part of the reason there are fewer receptionists is that there are fewer phone calls.

The “e mail mentality” has affected direct response marketing as well. No big surprise there; that’s been going on for a long time.  The ease and convenience of setting up an e mail template along with a mailing list and sending it out to hundreds if not thousands at the click of a button can’t be denied. I do it often as part of Elite’s marketing.

However, because of the high-volume of e mail that virtually everyone in business receives on a daily basis, the impact from a single one is reduced.  It’s much easier to send one; hence its popularity, but it’s also easy to delete one and we do that constantly all day long.  For years, people complained about the sheer volume of “junk mail”. Now, there’s less of that and, as a result, each mail piece carries a certain weight and importance which just isn’t transmitted electronically in the same way.  There’s a sense that these days, if someone takes the time and effort to send you something through the mail, it must be important and therefore worth your time to open.

Elite Envelope, benefits of direct mail

I try to send out at least one mailing per quarter to various groups of potential customers. I’ve found that when following up, most people tend to remember receiving the information and have kept it somewhere in their files for further reference. Getting that initial bit of recognition can go a long way toward establishing a lasting professional connection.  At some point, that person may go on an e mail list which allows me to stay in touch. So the two can work in harmony -  or equilibrium as the case may be.

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, elite envelope, write a letter, e mail and direct mail, e mail, envelopes

Mail a Letter Today - Use an Envelope!

Posted by Jerry Velona on Sep 19, 2011 11:21:00 AM

Last week’s post described some of the serious problems facing the post office.  The two biggest issues are an unsustainable cost structure and declining mail volume.  As individuals, we can’t do much about the former but maybe we can help out a bit on the latter.

There’s no question that electronic mail and the internet provide a way to transmit information much faster and more efficiently than “snail mail”.  I suppose that concept is OK for certain dry and factual communication like your bank statement.  But does anyone ever get really excited about an e mail anymore?  I suppose the content of the message is key to that question; however, wouldn’t an actual hand-written note make even more of an impression?

E mail overload has become a big problem in many businesses and for many individuals as well. The sheer volume of information available online and the ability of marketers to  transmit that information broadly with the ease of a keystroke has led to a daily avalanche of information reaching our inboxes both at home and at work.  How many times in the past month have you sat in front of your screen with analysis paralysis trying to figure out what to read, what to sort out, etc?  Just think how many possibly useful messages get lost in this pile.

Now imagine you’re sitting at your desk trying to negotiate all this and someone hands you an envelope. Not just an envelope, but one that is addressed to you. Not just addressed to you but actually hand-written.  My guess is you would stop what you’re doing and open it just for the sheer novelty of it.

Let’s carry it further and say that the content of the letter is a personally written note of some kind. Think that would make an impression?

In the past couple of years, I’ve begun to send notes to customers thanking them for their business and also to prospects that I’ve been having trouble reaching. The notes are short, to-the-point and always hand-written. (Despite having attended Catholic school as a child and all that implies with regard to penmanship, my hand-writing is not great. I do my best and I think it adds to the authenticity. I imagine the recipient giving me an A for effort).

But the presentation is less important than the message that’s transmitted.  And by the message, I don’t mean the information on the paper whatever that happens to be.  I’m talking about the implied and more important message that comes with the letter that says, “This person cared enough about me and this information to take the time to actually write it down, put a stamp on it and take it to the mailbox”.

Want to have your message stand out?  Try writing it down and mailing it. You’ll get a better response and you can help out the post office at the same time.  That’s a win-win in my book.

Topics: post office problems, hand-written note, write a letter

Yet Another Blog Post

From Jerry Velona - co-owner,

Elite Envelope & Graphics, Inc.

Jerry offers pertinent, often useful information on envelope converting and printing, web printing, direct mail, the post office, songs that have to do with mail and letters, digital overload and much more!

(Non-spam) Comments always appreciated.  Spread it around!

 

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