The case for cards


I love mail. And that’s why the holidays are so rad. People send real letters. A handful arrives every day, right on schedule. Seeing that thick row of cancelled stamps in the mailbox is the best Christmas gift a writer could ever get.

On the other hand, I hate email. Not categorically. I know that email is a useful tool that helps me do my job. But what I hate is all the other email. I hate the kind of email that doesn’t start with the line “Hi Alissa.” And I especially hate the email that starts with “Happy Holidays from Our Family to Yours.”

The feeling of ripping apart a smooth white envelope, and sliding my fingers into its cool depths as a card’s textures slowly reveal themselves is one of my greatest December joys. The experience of clicking on a “Season’s Greetings” subject line during this time of year makes me want to gouge my eyes out with broken Christmas lights. I don’t care if it’s a beautifully designed graphic that you and the elves spent hours slaving over in Photoshop. If it’s RGB, it means nothing to me.

You know how every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings? When that New Mail bell chimes in my inbox with your company’s holiday email, a little part of the writer inside of me dies.

I’m not saying everyone has to send cards. I don’t do it every year. But the problem with mass emails is that they’re more about the sender than the recipient. When you use the internet to quickly fire off your holiday missives, it makes you look bad. You’re transforming what should be a personal message about ME into an impersonal afterthought about YOU. Instead of wishing me happy holidays, you might as well write what I’m thinking as I’m reading it: “Hey, I’m opportunistically using the holidays as an excuse to promote my company. HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

Maybe my writerly tendencies have made me overly Grinchy when it comes to spamtastic holiday greetings. But since people often ask me how to make their personal brands and companies more memorable, I feel like I need to say this: If you truly, honestly want your clients and collaborators and every one on your freaking mailing list to feel appreciated, do not, I repeat, do not hit send. Ask them for their address. Mail them a card. (Better yet, make them a card.) Write a sentence on that card telling them how much you appreciate them. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to do this, then—I’m serious—don’t send anything at all.

(Someone just asked me about sending a personal note in email. I think that’s okay, and I would be happy to get a nice email at any time of year. But a card would be better.)

Besides, when you send an actual card, you get some serious brand equity. Opening an envelope takes at least 10 seconds. Reading a card can take up to two minutes. A good card gets placed on a fridge or mantle where it can garner hundreds of additional impressions if sent early enough in the season. A card makes good business sense. Whereas an email simply evaporates, disappearing as quickly as a melting snowflake, and just as easily forgotten.

This entry was posted in crafting, creating. Bookmark the permalink.
  • honey my heart

    i am a huge fan of mail so sending cards is a must. i haven’t thought about the email/mail differences, but have to say that i agree with you. a card is more personal, thoughtful, and works so well :)

  • Carolina A. Miranda

    What’s worse is all these companies and galleries and PR agencies who all feel the need to send an e-mail saying Happy Holidays… I feel like I’m getting spammed.

  • Alissa

    Exactly, it’s STILL SPAM—even if it says happy holidays. It doesn’t magically make it okay! OMG I just got six more.

  • Bennett

    Hello Alissa, Can I get you address? I would like to send you a sample of my new cards. I know this is a bit of a “opportunistic” use of the holidays, but at least it will have a stamp on it. Feel free to send me a FB message.

  • Callie Neylan

    Funny, because I’m just the opposite. I actually don’t enjoy getting Christmas cards unless they include a heartfelt, personal letter from someone close to me. They seem like a waste of natural resources and come across as a little bit shallow and disingenuous in most cases. I also don’t like the clutter they create. I stopped sending them years ago, hoping that people would drop me from their lists if I didn’t reciprocate. Ironically, though, I love Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday. Just hate Christmas cards.