Back in October, I attended a free networking session at the W Hotel at Union Square sponsored by Inc., Magazine. I met some lovely ladies, all of whom I need to touch base with, who work for The New York Enterprise Report. While we talked, one of them gave me a free copy of the October issue of the magazine and told me I could stop reading all I was reading and just focus on their publication. I think it’s a great pub and I intend to rotate it through with my other subscriptions, even though I feel like I being swallowed whole by magazines.
The main article in that issue is titled, “Why Paperless Post Will Put Evite and Hallmark Out Of Business” and so I knew I immediately had to read this publication. I’m glad I did because it gave me some perspective on my online “competitor” if I’m even going to consider them my “competitor”. For all purposes, they are competition. They are offering a product that I offer, except online. And they’ve been successful. BUT, I don’t consider them my competition because they’re not creating something tangible. They are creating something electronically that while awesome to receive and play with initially doesn’t, at least in my opinion leave a lasting impression.
Why? Well because I’m not touching it. As I can tell you from experience just even making plans online, I forget. If it’s not written down on a piece of paper that I can hold on to, I’m not going to remember it.
Now, I am by no means about to launch in a bashing of Paperless Post. After all, I’m a girl who once used “Evite” quite regularly and enjoyed it. I loved having a reason to send an “Evite”. As is the nature of any business, competition sprung and well, lets face it, Paperless Post is pretty sleek and cool. Another company offering similar services is Cocodot, which I just noticed has changed quite a bit, they are now selling goods as well as online and printed invitations, greeting and stationery.
This doesn’t even begin to cover all the other stationery lines being introduced daily. Now, David’s Bridal, Bed, Bath & Beyond is offering you invitation services, as is Michael’s, the craft shop, called MiDesign. Kudos for them for offering a service that helps expand their business, but isn’t that just the problem? They are venturing into an area of service that isn’t their specialty. Sure they may have designers that create these cards, but what is the value aside from cheap invitations for people looking for a bargain? Maybe that’s the value-bargain invitations. Which I don’t consider my competition.
These mass produced, printed in China, companies, is what helps makes businesses like Paperless Post, Cocodot, and heck, even boutique stationery companies like me exist. But the stationery and design industry has become over-saturated and it kind of makes me uncomfortable.
But lets get back to Paperless Post, because I want to address a comment that Alexa Hirschfeld made about stationery in one of her answers. She said, “It’s what stationery would have been if it could have been interactive.”
Um, I’m confused. Because stationery is interactive. When you receive an envelope in the mail with a card, note, invitation, or anything else that may be involved, you are interacting with the piece. The minute you slide said object out of the envelope, you are interacting again with the piece. And then, when you touch, read, slide the ribbon, touch the embossed or letter pressed graphic or words, you are interacting with the item. Oh and then if you RSVP via phone, text, email, mail, however it is designated on the invite, guess what? You not only interacted, but you ENGAGED!
Electronic stationery is only interactive if it allows for the tools of interaction and engagement that you see so often. Some of the electronic cards I can remember loving in the past are those that included moving animation and songs. Seriously. Those cards did not require anything else. They ended, I smiled and then they got deleted or moved in a folder, never to be seen again. Which is why there is still a dependence on a persons response to the invitation or note whether it be paper and pen, or screen, keyboard and mouse. Again, we’re leaving the process up the individuals receiving the document and that is where the problems lie.
I know I’ve heard countless stories of brides who have had to stalk guests for their RSVP cards for traditional paper wedding invitations, as much as general people inviting guests to events with electronic invitations. Yes, there is the initial mail receiving excitement, but the fact remains that at some point the novelty wears off. So the greater issue here is not that stationery is not interactive, but that our attention spans dwindle after a period of time and how do you capture that once it’s gone?
I think it’s almost easier for someone like me, who designs with actual materials to focus on capturing that attention because I have a tangible good. Once someone deletes an email or ecard or evite, it’s gone to trash. Sure you can log into your account, if you created one, and find it again, but why would you?
I think more importantly, what really makes interactive stationery is how that stationery made you feel at the time that you opened it. Did it really capture you? Did it make you feel happy? Sad? (I should hope stationery doesn’t make you feel sad, but anything is possible.) Full of joy? Excited?
I am a paper love. Obviously. It’s why I work with the tools I work with. But I know that I have cards, invitations and stationery pieces that have made me happy in receiving them. I touch the cards, I reread them often, I really value them. I’m not saying that I don’t value something like Paperless Post, because I think they’ve got a great idea and heck, they offer lining your fake electronic email and charging you for that, genius! But I, the designer, am more inclined to find my own paper, line my own envelopes by hand and create my own breath-taking, feeling inspiring stationery piece and using the good old postal service to spread joy. Oh, another way my stationery had just interacted with a person. Awesome.
For all you stationery designers out there, don’t let the digital world stop you. There’s a place for us all in this over-saturated market. The real way to succeed is to believe. So get out there and interact!
For those of you who want to send something out electronically that is nice and warms the heart, give Paperless Post a whirl. It’s incredibly easy to use and their designs and concepts are cute. Just know that I don’t think your using Paperless Post is going to put Hallmark out of business, maybe Evite, but not Hallmark, at least any time soon.