Britain’s Royal Mail is trying something new with direct mail: sending people a box of free stuff. Called “Matter”, the first one went out in mid-December to 30,000 people who had signed up to receive it. The box contained books, DVDs, CDs, shower products, a candybar, a pre-paid SIM card and a few other goodies.
The idea is that you try them, maybe give some to your friends, tell people about the one you like and otherwise interact with products in a way that’s more interesting than traditional direct-mail advertising.
The project was a collaboration with Tim Milne, who started the arts collective Artomatic. He says that the challenge so far has been getting advertisers to look past traditional direct mail. He told me:
“I've long believed that printed matter will gain new value in a digital world as everyone begins to crave the more physical / tactile / emotional nature of printed stuff.
Matter is revealing some interesting, unexpected behaviours. Matter is very social–people take the items (and sometimes the whole box) to work, to the pub and tell their friends and family about the cool things
they'd been sent. It fact, even though it's a physical medium, it behaves more like a digital channel.
The underlying concept–that if you give people nice things they'll better towards you is certainly true. What we're beginning to discover is how the simple act giving people something nice triggers a whole range of responses–using the objects, telling their friends and telling us what they think.”
The next box goes out in April.