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Handwritten Blog

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We post blog articles on all things handwritten, associated topics and the occasional dog story!

By Handwritten Letters, Jan 2 2018 02:24PM

With the advance of digitisation, emails, computers, smart phones, tablets, apps etc, technology has been seen as the holy grail for years now, and the answer to all of our communication problems.

Companies and marketeers spend thousands developing the latest loyalty program or app in attempts to wow their customers and stand out from the competition.

Sometimes though, it can be the small, simple things that really make a big difference.

An interesting article by Wade Burgess is one good example. He describes how, as a frequent flyer, he was on yet another routine business flight one morning. A couple of hours into the flight, he and all the other business class passengers were each given a note, handwritten on the back of the Captain’s business card.

He looked around the cabin and saw all the recipients reading their cards and smiling. The Captain’s handwritten missive had, in a few seconds, provided that personal connection with his passengers, so often lacking in our remote technological communications. To add further drama, he announced on the PA that he had personally signed one of the cards, and that the recipient of that card could claim a free bottle of wine.

In another example, Peter Gasca mentions how it is the ‘rare handwritten notes’ that stand out in his memory on a typical business day, rather than the constant onslaught of emails.

An article in Forbes describes how a young company called HEX generated huge customer loyalty and a successful business by sending out 13,000 personalised handwritten thank you notes to customers. The article proposes that the reason these were so successful is that we often spend so much time greeting and interacting with customers at the beginning of a transaction, in the rush to conclude an order and move on to the next, the simple art of thank you at the end is too often forgotten. A company that recognises this and takes the time to send genuine, non-commercial thank you notes to customers, can reap the benefits.

Personal interactions can also benefit from the handwritten touch. An unusual example is from a woman who describes how touched she was to receive a handwritten breakup letter from her boyfriend, rather than the usual text message.

Even the humble handwritten postcard is another survivor in this digital age.

The Postcrossing Project, a group of some 500,000 members worldwide, who sign up to send and receive postcards, tried using a postcard app to send custom images and typed messages. However their community manager Ana Campos writes: ““We actually tried integrating one of these apps into the site at one point, but many members specifically request that people don’t use them. Postcrossers are more into the small human details like stamps, calligraphy, ink and wear and tear.”

There’s no denying the great convenience and time-saving aspects of digital communications, which most of us could not now do without.

But what all of these examples demonstrate, is that the small, personal, human act of handwriting a message, however brief, often has the potential to create an impact out of all proportion to the message itself.

By Handwritten Letters, Jan 18 2017 11:38AM

First and foremost, as with any successful direct mail campaign, planning and defining your objectives is important. Think about what you want to achieve from the campaign, whether it be sales-focused sign-ups, brand awareness, customer loyalty or even staff motivation and retention.

The next thing to consider is your list. Whether it is an internal database or a purchased list, accuracy is vital. You need to be sure that every name and address is correct and up-to-date, with a full postal code to ensure accurate delivery.

Once you have compiled your list, the individual messages will then need to be composed. Segment your target prospects into groups and think about who you are writing to, what will interest them, why they should respond and how. When producing a handwritten direct mailshot, take the opportunity to make each message uniquely personalised. Mention a recent meeting or event, refer to previous interactions, but above all when composing the message think about the individual you are speaking to and what they want from you.

Timing is the next important factor when planning a handwritten direct mail campaign.

Although you may not need to spend as much time getting designs and artwork produced and signed off as you would for a printed campaign, you will still need to consider what type of stationery, cards or invitations you want to use and may need to allow time to have logos, corporate branding or bespoke elements such as embossing or foil blocking incorporated into the mail piece.

Handwritten notes on plain paper or card with matching envelopes can be a good option if you are short of time. The feel and weight of really good quality paper, with a simple handwritten message in real ink, can often be just as effective as branded alternatives.

Getting the letters, notes, invitations and envelopes individually handwritten will generally take longer than producing a printed or email campaign, so you need to plan ahead.

Printing a mass mailshot or sending an email campaign can be done at the touch of a button. Handwriting individual messages and envelopes will take a little more time and effort, but then that’s why you’re doing it and why your recipients will appreciate it.

As with any direct mail campaign, sending handwritten mail relies on the delivery service. In the UK, the Royal Mail aims to deliver first class letters the next day and second class letters in three days, however the service does vary depending on where you are based.

If you are sending mail overseas, for example to the USA, Royal Mail International Standard service aims to deliver in around 7 days, however this is not guaranteed and can take longer depending on where in the USA you are posting. They do offer an International Tracked and Signed for service, with online delivery confirmation. The Royal Mail offers guaranteed, signed for and next day delivery service options within the UK, which are worth considering for small bespoke mailings where delivery is time critical.

Of course for that extra touch of luxury, if you operate in a small area you could deliver your letters by hand, use a courier service, or, find one of the more unusual delivery solutions such as Velopost and have it delivered by bicycle!

Finally, test. The beauty of handwritten mail is that it is possible to individually personalise every element and to produce it in very small quantities. Send a few letters, see what works best and refine if needed.

By Handwritten Letters, Feb 5 2016 12:49PM

An article by Huon Mallallieu in The Times discusses the enduring tradition of the Valentine card. According to Mallallieu, printed Valentine cards were first produced in England during the late-18th century, with the French following suit shortly after and the Americans printing their first ones in the 1840s.

The feast day of St Valentine of Terni was written about by Chaucer and friends, as well as by Shakespeare, Donne and Spenser.

Handwritten Valentine cards have always been popular, according to the article, and the craze spread around the world, developing into printed, lace, lithographic and scented variants. In the 1860s Rimmel was the leading producer of perfumed Valentine sachets which featured messages hidden inside.

In 2015 Americans sent around 145 million Valentines. In the UK Valentine’s Day is the second most popular holiday for sending cards and we spent around £57m on them in 2015.

Interestingly, despite the increasing digitalisation of our communication methods, according to research, 83% of women would still prefer a handwritten letter or card rather than a text or email, with a handwritten letter being regarded as the most romantic. A sentiment we can wholeheartedly agree with!

By Handwritten Letters, Jan 25 2016 11:39AM

Printed direct mail has long been a tried and tested part of the marketing mix.

Despite the fact that its reputation has been damaged over the years by the over-enthusiastic use of mass marketing campaigns, plus its demise due to the rise of low-cost, click-of-a-button email campaigns, direct mail is once again making a comeback.*

And, with the current move towards more meaningful, one-to-one, bespoke marketing, there is one form of highly personalised mail, some may argue the original form, that is also seeing a revival.

The handwritten letter, thank you note, invitation or other form of handwritten communication may be considered by some in this digital age to be old-fashioned and low-tech. However, that is precisely why it is re-gaining popularity, as companies strive to convey thoughtful values, trust, integrity and luxury, in order to evoke an emotional response.

The beauty of handwritten direct mail, as opposed to printed items, is that each piece really can be individually tailored to the recipient. The message, length and even the stationery it is written on can be chosen specifically for the individual recipient, adding an extra level of personalisation and conveying a luxury feel.

Handwritten mail pieces can be used to test response rates and fine-tuned on an individual basis, which can be expensive or unachievable when compared to testing ordinary printed items.

A handwritten communication may not be appropriate in all circumstances, and, as with all direct mail, if the message is wrong, your recipient data incorrect or the timing inappropriate, then it will be wasted.

If used in a creative and thoughtful way though, handwritten items can be very effective, for example when used to make introductions, as a sincere thank-you or as part of an ongoing customer relationship building programme.

Research shows that 57% of people already say that mail makes them feel more valued, compared with only 17% saying the same about email. ** Handwritten mail, when used correctly, could add to the modern marketing mix an even more powerful way to make customers feel special.

The 5 advantages of handwritten mail items:

1. You don’t have to order large quantities. You can produce just one and then make adjustments for additional items as required.

2. Every handwritten item can be different and personalised for the individual recipient. Although it is possible to personalise printed direct mail pieces, giving the feeling they are one-to-one, there is usually some degree of uniformity and content common to all pieces.

3. You can test and refine your message and design, as often as you like.

4. You can produce a very high quality, bespoke item on demand, rather than having to order large quantities that end up being stored, or even going to waste.

Finally, and most importantly:

5. A handwritten mail piece is created by hand. The recipient will know and appreciate that someone has taken the time and trouble to individually hand write and send them a unique, original piece of communication.




By Handwritten Letters, Sep 25 2015 02:51PM

The photo shown features old handwritten envelopes found in a suitcase in my mother’s loft. They were written before, during and just after the second world war, to and from parents, sweethearts, relatives and pen friends.

They are beautiful, tactile reminders of a past era, that have survived over 70 years.

Envelopes originated around 3500 to 3200 B.C. in the Middle East, according to Wikipedia. They were used for financial transactions and were made of hollowed out clay spheres, moulded around monetary tokens.

When paper was invented in China in the 2nd century B.C., handmade paper envelopes were used for storing money.

Only handmade envelopes were available up until 1845. Envelopes became widely used in the UK when a new government controlled postal service was launched in May 1840. Machine printed, postage-paid, envelope wrappers, featuring illustrations by William Mulready, known as Mulready stationery, were sold in sheets of 12, ready to be cut and folded by the purchaser.

In 1845 Edwin Hill and Warren De La Rue obtained a patent for the first envelope-making machine that could be used with the new Penny Black stamps. The classic diamond shaped envelope wrapper became readily available to the public, and the British government controlled model of issuing stamps and operating and controlling the postal service spread around the world.

Today, illustrated envelopes with their origins dating back to Mulready stationery, are used extensively for direct mail.

Developments such as mechanized envelope printing, franking machines, digital franking and addressing have all altered the way businesses use envelopes.

The advent of email in the late 1990s appeared to threaten the use of mail posted in envelopes. By 2008 it was reported that volumes of letters with stamped envelopes were falling significantly.

Now however, there are reports that the use of snail mail is on the increase. A recent report by The Royal Mail looked at what makes a piece of mail valued today and found four key characteristics:

1. It contains useful information

2. It makes you think

3. It creates feelings

4. It leads to action.

Although email has its place and most of us could not do our jobs without it, I believe it will never fully eradicate the use of paper and envelopes.

There will always be a place for a thoughtful, handwritten message, contained in a crisp handwritten envelope. It may not be for everyday use, and due to the time and thought required to produce it, will never be a fast, cheap option.

However, in the digital age, if someone has taken the time and effort to write a letter and envelope and post it, it is far more likely to engage the recipient, and who knows, may even be kept for generations to come.

By Handwritten Letters, Sep 2 2015 11:53AM

Luxury and heritage brands are leading a new approach to good old fashioned values and etiquette, with the use of handwritten notes.

Writing on luxurysociety.com Jonathan Ford of @pearlfisherlive writes that luxury has now ‘become democratised and available to the masses’.

This means that luxury brands need to offer a more highly personalised service to assert their exclusivity. The article cites a survey by BCG which claims that 51 per cent of US luxury consumers are now looking for ‘enriched experiences’ over product. For example, Selfridges now offers customers the opportunity to develop their own personalised fragrances and hotels provide uniquely tailored individual holidays.

@shaminabaspr on luxurydaily.com argues that luxury brands finding it difficult to stand out in a fast paced marketplace can attract affluent customers by offering ‘exclusivity, personal attention and bespoke experiences' and that “Through the resurrection of handwritten notes, luxury brands are demonstrating these sought-after values.”

Customers appreciate the personal touch and the new generation of mindful brands and existing heritage brands such as Mont Blanc, Fortnum and Mason, Hermes and Veuve Clicquot are using the traditional nostalgia of handwritten communications to convey this exclusivity and personal attention.

Fashion and beauty brands are also delighting customers with personal notes and helping to develop brand loyalty.

A handwritten thank you note, introductory letter or invitation to a launch takes time to produce. Each one has to be handwritten individually, placed in the envelope, hand addressed and the stamp affixed. The messages can be uniquely personalised to the individual, rather than just the token effort of inserting a name at specific points in a mass mail. They are not produced as a one off template and sent out en masse to join the queue in a crowded inbox.

Handwritten communications usually cost more, and can take longer to produce than emails or simple printed letters. But the very fact that a brand has taken the time to think about and hand write a note in today’s fast-paced era, has a ‘cultural significance’ that is perfectly in tune with luxury and heritage brand cultures.

By Handwritten Letters, Aug 19 2015 10:05AM

Research from the Royal Mail shows that nowadays people expect communications to be ‘personal, relevant, timely and useful’. I suspect that they always did, but the advent of cheap email mass marketing technology made a lot of marketers forget this.

Email and traditional snail mail both have their strengths when used properly. Email is great for simple updates and everyday messages while snail mail is seen as more authoritative.

According to the research, consumers prefer to receive certain types of communication by post, for example financial services information, local authority news and travel brochures. The research also found that if you want people to think about your messages, you should use post, while if it is a quick update, email is fine.

The figures show that:

• 72% of people say they open all of their post.

• 56% say they are likely to spend time reading mail compared to 27% reading their email.

Postal mail has a tactile quality. When executed well, for example using high quality or unusual paper and envelopes, maybe combined with a handwritten or personalised message, it can convey reliability and show that you’ve put extra care and thought into it.

• 57% of people say that mail makes them feel more valued, while only 17% say that about email.

• 61% say that mail gives a better impression, while only 45% say that about email.

The key for businesses trying to communicate with new and existing customers is to use a combination of mail, email and digital to deliver personal, relevant, timely communications, using the most appropriate media for the message.



¹ IPA Touchpoints 5, 2014

² Royal Mail MarketReach, Mail and Digital Part 1, Quadrangle, 2013

³ Royal Mail MarketReach, Mail and Digital Part 2, Quadrangle, 2014

By Handwritten Letters, Jul 29 2015 01:52PM

One of the keys to building a successful business is to build long lasting relationships with customers.

Taking extra care of customers and paying attention to detail is all part of the relationship building process and one way of doing this is to send thoughtful handwritten thank you messages.

Top business people, celebrities and politicians know that in the cluttered digital age, making the effort to hand write a thank you card, put it in a handwritten envelope, attach a stamp and post it, expresses gratitude and evokes an emotional response in ways that an email never can.

5 tips for writing impactful handwritten messages:

Keep it stylish

Use a simple thank you card or blank card that is high quality and feels substantial when taken out of the envelope. High quality card or paper will help to convey a quality image for your business.

Keep it simple

The message doesn’t have to be too long, it is the thought that counts. Choose your words carefully and don’t over-complicate the message.

Be memorable

To add the extra ‘wow’ factor to your handwritten message, why not include a small gift such as a voucher or product sample?

Add a business card

You don’t need to clutter up your handwritten card by repeating your business name and contact details. If you want to include this information just include a (high quality) business card.

Build relationships

Don’t just communicate business messages. Why not delight customers and send handwritten greetings cards on anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas or at significant milestones during a project?

It really doesn’t take time out of your busy schedule if you opt to use a handwriting message service, and the potential rewards invariably outweigh the cost.

By Handwritten Letters, Jul 3 2015 10:27AM

In this digital age of instant communication, you would think that the handwritten word would be in decline.

There are however, an increasing number of people who are finding that a handwritten letter or note can have a powerful impact.

Carla Turchetti writing on the American Express small business forum explains that 'some small business owners swear by the power of the handwritten message'.

While Alena Hall in the Huffington Post argues that communicating by hand creates timeless memories, shows how much you care, sparks creativity and honors tradition.

Kristian Schwartz, also in the Huffington Post says that: 'the handwritten note is my go-to. Why? Because the pen is mightier than the mouse and is the most authentic way to thank someone in our current era of digital flotsam and jetsam.'

An article in the Globe leadership lab suggests that writing a personal note comes across as more thoughtful and is more likely to help you stand out and be remembered than a fleeting text or email.

Of course most of us don't have the time to handwrite communications on a regular basis. Which is why in the US, they have invented handwriting robots to simulate the handwritten word, and deliver it on a mass scale.

If you'd like to make your communications more personal, but still prefer the human touch, you can always ask us to handwrite your letters for you.

By Handwritten Letters, Nov 14 2014 01:35PM

Calligraphy, literally translated means “beautiful writing”.*

In a world dominated by computer-generated fonts, people are re-discovering the hand-drawn organic nature of the pen nib and ink.

Western calligraphy dates back over 2,000 years. The early calligraphers used reed and quill pens, as well as brushes, to write on clay tablets, papyrus, stone and animal skins.

In medieval times, trained calligraphers or “scribes”, began copying manuscripts in professional workshops, work that had only previously been undertaken by monks.

While the trained scribes used their calligraphy skills to handwrite the manuscripts, illumination artists added the decorative touches, illustrations and gold leaf. The word “illumination” derives from the Latin illuminaire, which means to enlighten or light up. Bright colours and intricate borders and patterns were used to decorate the manuscripts. Irish scribes produced some of the earliest illumination when producing the Books of Kelts and the Lindisfarne Gospels.

With the arrival of the printing press in the 15th century, there was no longer a need to copy books by hand. Calligraphy moved on to become an art form and the scribes developed their skills to match the detail produced by the copperplate engravers.

In the 20th century, the Arts and Crafts movement sparked a modern revival of calligraphy that continues to this day.

The elements of calligraphic lettering have specific names. For example, ductus refers to the direction and sequence of strokes. The terms “majuscule” or Romans are used for uppercase letters and “minuscule” for lowercase letters. Rather than using the term font, which is used for computer-generated letters, handwritten alphabets are referred to as “style” or “hand”.

Roman stone cutters and scribes developed the classic form of Roman letters that are the foundation for many alphabets in use today.

Calligraphy can be used to great effect to produce individual forms of communication such as poems, invitations or letters.

There are some lovely examples in the National Art Library modern calligraphy collection.


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