I’m back into the habit of sending notecards… from the edge.
They’re not from the bleeding edge, but some kind of edge nonetheless – of online and offline, humans and robots, personal and distant, old and new. Is it any wonder I love them?
The past couple months, I started revisited Bond, a tech startup I got to know and love a couple years ago but never used quite enough. The team there, led by one of my favorite founders, Sonny Caberwal, created little robots that used real pens on high-quality notecards to simulate the feel of handwriting. Through their site, you could type out a note, and choose one of a number of handwriting styles (including many that were kind of messy, which is fitting for a doctor’s son like me). You could also customize the cards with your logo and other messaging, and then Bond would send them out for about $5 apiece (less if you paid for credits up front).
Just as I was sending more of these, typically as thank you notes to people I’ve met, Bond informed customers last month that it was promptly shutting down. It had been acquired by Newell Rubbermaid in 2016, and this was the end of the road (at least for now).
I had heard of another service or two, but as I publicly lamented Bond’s end and gave kudos to Sonny on Twitter, a company I never heard of, Handwrytten, tweeted me back introducing themselves. I don’t know how it works behind the scenes, but the customer-facing offering seemed similar – send customized notecards (or actual greeting cards) with your preferred handwriting style, including on the envelope.
I tried out Handwrytten, and I’ve sent a few since; it’s my go-to service for this now; I’ve updated my Top 100+ tech recommendations spreadsheet accordingly. Handwrytten seems to send cards faster, and there are more varieties with the design of the card you can send. You can also send one of many gift card options at whatever denomination you want (just a $5 minimum). You can’t get credits up-front, and I can’t compare the paper quality head-to-head, but I’m sold.
When I spent some time with Sonny in 2016 and got to tour Bond’s offices, I had some lengthy discussions with him about what it meant to send something so personal but to not use your own handwriting for it. It seemed like such a sacrifice, as handwriting is one of those telltale signs of who we are.
I will in no way properly do justice to Sonny’s response, especially years later, but the impression I was left with is that getting the stationary (especially high-end paper), coming up with the idea of what to write, writing it, getting stamps, and mailing it is such a hassle of a process that most never attempt it. Bond (and related services) reduced the number of steps. The biggest challenge by far for Bond customers was coming up with what to write, and then turning it into a habit. For me, the writing was relatively less daunting, the cost was worth it, and the process was much smoother. In short, it was probably better (nicer paper than I’d use, more legible handwriting) and definitely faster (I’m still working on mailing something my kid drew in November for her cousins), even if it isn’t cheaper. Two out of three? Not bad.
And so, my writing has been imprinted via some invisible hand and arriving via the post. The back of the notecard has my Serial Marketer logo, and the front says “Serially Thankful” up top with my name and website at the bottom. I may not ever touch these missives, but they feel more ‘me’ than not, and they deliver an often-forgotten form of human-to-human connection.
Toying with the art of being mostly human is mostly what I’ve been making of myself lately. What about you – what are you making of yourself?
LEARN. TRY. SHARE.
IF THE NEW YORK TIMES CAN PRINT IT, SO CAN SERIAL MARKETER
I had seen New New York Times on Twitter before but hadn’t followed it until a few days ago when I noticed a few followees, including Toronto Star ace DC correspondent Daniel Dale, jumped on board. The account shares words that appear for the first time in The New York Times, including occasional typos like “wrirting.” What prompted all the new followers was the term “deadass,” amassing 15,000+ likes and 4,000+ retweets. Of course, I had to research this further, and it seems like Urban Dictionary first defined the term in 2004. Also, I didn’t know that Timberland is the brand of choice for a certain kind of New Yorker cited in the most popular “deadass” definition. My pair of Timberlands, which my mom would only get me when my feet stopped growing, is the only pair of shoes I’ve had since high school, and they should last a couple more decades of New York City snowstorms. What an adaptable brand.
ANOTHER NAME BITES THE DUST
After writing about names last week, including the damage that the Theranos founder did to the name Elizabeth Holmes, reader Jeff Sass sent me this piece about the 857 people now grappling with name infamy.
ANOTHER REASON TO HATE LA
Speaking of names, the LA Times trolled New Yorkers in a biting parody – except that this parody had to not just mention Son of Sam but also his real name. This will also likely be one of their most-read stories of the year. Any wonder why I don’t shed a single drop of blood pitying the Elizabeth Holmeses of the world?
BECAUSE YOU NEED MORE WAYS TO NETWORK
Okay, these lists are usually pretty hokey and obvious, but I saw a quite a few friends quoted here (Jeff Barrett, Ann Handley, Jay Baer, Ian Gartler and others), and a few have non-intuitive advice. Sorry to my buddies, but my favorite quote is from Guido Jansen at #3 because he includes the phrase, “They’ll remember my stroopwafels.” Worse catchphrases than that used to inspire SNL movies, and I’m going to try throwing that around out of context and see how that goes.
A HARVARD DROPOUT BUILDS A LIBRARY
Mark Zuckerberg wants you to go to the library… of Facebook ads. This can be a resource for competitive intelligence or other research needs, as you can search the vast database of ads either about a topic or run by a page. Search the president’s official page, for instance, and it’s clear his team is very aggressive with A/B testing quite a few messages about how the Democrats are embracing “SOCIALISM” and how his administration is building “THE WALL” (their caps, not mine). You can also search other accounts where the ads aren’t just old, white guys screaming at you.
A WHOPPER OF A PIVOT
As much as I tired of April Fool’s stunts this year, prankster brand Burger King’s timing proved brilliant, making quite a few people wonder if their Impossible Foods partnership was a hoax. This year, at CES, I had the Impossible Foods White Castle slider, and then I went back and had a few more the next day; it might be the best thing I ate that trip. I don’t always love how restaurants cook the Impossible ‘meat’ (it is entirely plant-based protein), but White Castle’s version was excellent. BK really is trying this out in St. Louis, and for those with any reservations about eating meat, whether moral or environmental or other, this could be a path to a less meat-dependent society.
P.S. You’ll remember my stroopwafels!
(See, it works!)