How Picture Postcards Became A Useful Marketing Tool

Until the 1850s, it was common to mail personal messages in envelopes that contained hand-decorated ink images and borders. The various mail systems charged postage by weight and distance which meant it could be costly. The first USPS postage stamp began circulation on July 1, 1847, after Congress approved 5 and 10 cents postage. You might be surprised to learn, though, that the postcard may have started as a joke on the postal service and has since then had a significant place in marketing history.

In 1840, writer Theodore Hook mailed the first postcard to himself which contained a hand-drawn image and a Black penny stamp. Hook was infamous for pranks, and experts believe the card mailing was also since the imagery was of postal workers and a giant inkwell. One might say the joke was on Hook as he never benefitted nor received credit until postal historian Edward Proud discovered it in 2001.

Until recently, the postcard was thought to be an invention of the U.S. or Hungary. In 1861, John P. Charlton copyrighted the postal card, but he did not receive a patent. Dr. Emanuel Herrmann then introduced to the Hungarian government the first postal service postcard. Until the discovery of the Hook postcard, Herrmann’s design was thought to be the first mailed in 1870 which was also the year Britain sent the first printed photo card.

Charlton then sold his copyright to Hymen L. Lipman who released Lipman’s Postal Cards that were imageless. On May 1, 1873, the United States Postal Service issued a government-printed postcard and was the only American entity allowed to advertise a postal card service. The USPS delivery cost one cent, but they charged competitors two which quickly became a successful marketing tool. The prices continued until 1898 when Congress regulated the private mailing of postcards at the same rate as the USPS.

By 1926 the USPS annually delivered 1,323,000,000 stamped cards and 206,000,000 postcards which suggests that private printing companies had found advantageous ways to compete. The most popular postcard during this period contained an image with a white border. In 1930, the printing technology advanced which led to a linen-like paper postcard that was popular with American patriots during the WWII era.

In 1939, the photochrome postcard became popular. Since then, imagery like families, landscapes, artwork, cars, and business logos have enhanced marketing content. Because of the affordability of postage, it has been a useful resource for many years. In 2017, the USPS delivered 670,952,000 stamped and 2,125,273,000 presorted marketing postcards.

Many businesses worldwide agree that postcard marketing has countless benefits. Using pictures also elevates user experience as businesses can target consumer practices.

  • Photo postcards are ideal for marketing tools. A real estate company could design a photo postcard with a house on the market, or a veterinarian could send out images of customer’s puppies or kittens (consumers love this type of imagery).
  • It is an excellent source for an online or small business marketing campaign to design a postcard based on customer interaction of artwork or photo imagery.
  • Businesses can use picture postcards to introduce personnel or new store displays that consumers might not be aware.

The doubled-sided full-cover image postcards would be great to showcase favorite products or services. A single image, though, would also be beneficial for product or service descriptions. This marketing tool remains one of the most affordable ways to reach consumers, so it is worth investing in either the uncoated, full-color or EDDM postcard availability at PostcardsRus.

Tags: Postcards, Marketing Google