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90s direct mail marketing campaign kit
Our Best Marketing Campaign Mailer Ever: What Worked, What We Learned, and What to Incorporate into Future Campaigns
May 7, 2021

If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that it takes a village to develop a winning marketing campaign. This year, we got to see the benefits of those efforts firsthand. Our most recent direct mail campaign was a HUGE hit, nearly doubling social engagement with tons of positive feedback. We want to share what we discovered during this successful customer campaign.

At its core, our direct mail campaign was a ’90s-themed gift set that incorporated a variety of nostalgic and custom products. We included a yearbook that mirrored ’90s era versions showcasing our employees, complete with witty inscriptions straight from our team. Packaged in a less than subtle box with neon and holographic 90s imagery, we shipped it off to our spectacular customers! Here is what we learned.

Identify your audience

To put together a winning 3DDM marketing campaign, we started by taking an in-depth look at our customers. We knew it was essential to identify products and messaging that would resonate with our base.

For our Yearbook campaign, we assessed our customers and identified a largely Millennial and GenX base comprised mostly of people who grew up in or around the ’90s.

“Knowing your audience is such an important element when you’re developing a campaign like this,” says Robin Lanning, Director of Marketing for Tactive. “We knew we needed to find a way to reach our core customers with a message that resonated, and we could only do that by truly understanding who our audience was.”

Providing an impactful package with a nostalgic feel reached them in ways our previous direct mail campaigns had not.

90s dressed man throws marketing campaign letters

Brainstorm with a frenzy

Brainstorming is an essential step in the campaign development process. Timelines are undoubtedly important, and we’ve all been on the less-than-desirable receiving end of a tight deadline. When possible, give yourself time to contemplate all the pieces of your campaign and be mindful of your selections.

Also, make brainstorming a team activity. After all, two minds are better than one, four are better than two, and so on.

“The yearbook campaign took us about six months, from concept to delivery,” notes Robin. “It’s important that you give yourself ample time for the creative process and take the time to think it through.”

Here are some questions you might ask when brainstorming with your team:

What is trending in advertising and entertainment?

What are people watching? Do you see trends in television or movies that are particularly popular? If so, why are they trending? How can you leverage those themes and ideas? Our yearbook campaign was born from pop-culture trends of nostalgia and a general desire for simpler times. Think Stranger Things; a modern Netflix hit based in the 80s. People are digging throwbacks, so that’s what we delivered.

What do people care about most?

How can you incorporate what people care about into your theme and campaign? The yearbook campaign began with an idea to evoke the ’90s, but we also knew people were working from home during a pandemic. In the past, we appealed to employees and their coworkers. But this year, we went for items that recipients and their families would find exciting.

Which items and design elements will speak to your theme and audience the best?

Are there products and colors or fonts which will speak positively to our audience? For our customer campaign, we identified color schemes, patterns, and finishes that were popular with a ’90s-fan base. We carried the designs through to all aspects of the kit: from the cover of the yearbook to the full-color printing on the Bluetooth speaker, everything in the box evoked feelings of nostalgia.

Which products you should include?

One of our favorite questions to ask is: what is the best gift you’ve ever received from a brand? It’s most likely that the gift was something unique, but more likely that it was helpful. It doesn’t take long for brands to catch on to trends, and all of a sudden, every brand has a fidget spinner. The best gifts hone in on what people can functionally use and what has the potential to impress. We provided a blend of ’90s items, such as a pencil case and slap bracelet with a modern Bluetooth speaker that sported a retro design to give it that extra wow factor. Mixing a little fun with a bit of function can go a long way.

How can you make it a tactile experience?

At Tactive, we LOVE an excellent tactile marketing campaign (it’s part of our name, after all). But, people don’t just want to touch; they want an experience. Think of ways to package your campaign that slows down the unboxing event, giving the recipient more reasons to spend time with your brand. Are you including a letter? Consider encasing it in an envelope. Is there a way to put some items inside others? Take the time to plan how the package will look on the receiving end. For example, we put small things, like candy and a scrunchie, inside a pencil case to keep the recipient engaged for longer.

How can you tie it into your other marketing channels, such as social and website?

With any successfully executed campaign, it’s critical that you share your success on other channels. Develop hashtags for recipients to use so that you can provide a comprehensive unboxing experience. There are also ways to tie a campaign into your general marketing strategy, such as using a fun landing page to gather addresses and developing a thoughtful email cadence to communicate your call-to-action.

Develop a winning theme

A dimensional direct mail element frequently overlooked is a cohesive theme that also hits the right chord. Often, we see a theme that is too generalized or overused to resonate with a particular audience. To truly develop a message that sticks, you need to fit the pieces of your brainstorm session together and form a cohesive campaign plan.

“We didn’t want to opt for a generic campaign. We wanted something that would create an emotional reaction as well as showcase who we are,” says Robin. “We even took the time to ensure that every item included in the kit had a special thread – an imprint, color, pattern, or finish – that tied it to the rest of the campaign.”

Source the right products

Now you’ve come to the meat of your campaign: the products that will go into your 3DDM piece. It’s time to choose wisely. Poorly chosen products can fall flat and cause less of a return on investment. Consider which items align with your messaging and call-to-action. What do you ultimately want the recipient to remember about this experience?

Locally sourced products may resonate more with a regional audience, whereas a genuinely cool piece from a desirable locale might receive a better reception from a geographically distanced audience.

“We started with a custom-made stuffed animal in the likeness of our office dog, but we also wanted a big-ticket item anyone would love for their home or office,” mentions Robin. “We landed on a Bluetooth speaker and then rounded out the package with smaller, lower-priced items that played into the theme: a scrunchie, pencils, throwback candy, and even a holographic slap bracelet.”

90s themed marketing campaign packaging

Package like a pro

Although this last step may seem a little lackluster, it’s essential! The packaging of your dimensional mail is the first impression for your recipients, so it needs to pack a punch. The box also contributes to the tactile experience, an important factor in building cohesion with the rest of the kit.

“We decided to put most of our budget on the items in the box, so we kept the packaging to a simple black box. However, we punched it up with a label utilizing a soft-touch finish and a holographic foil that just screamed the ’90s,” notes Robin. “Each box was personalized with the recipient’s first name, making the unboxing experience feel unique to each recipient.”

A Quick Recap

Ultimately, to execute a winning campaign, you have to let your brand personality shine. “We wanted this campaign to show off all that we can do from a print and promo perspective, but also to be a representation of our culture,” comments Robin. “We wanted to show some personality. Our customers really resonate with how we treat them like humans, and it’s what matters the most to us. Incorporate your culture, have a little fun, and you’ll have a winner every time.”


To make our yearbook campaign such a success, these are the steps we took:

  1. We identified our audience and developed key personas.
  2. Brainstorming sessions helped us to identify our theme and the products we wanted to use.
  3. With the idea in place, we incorporated special finishes and patterns into the design of our packaging.
  4. We arranged the kit pieces to ensure an interactive experience that went beyond opening a box.

We hope this breakdown got you excited to launch your next campaign! Remember that Tactive offers support for every step, from idea generation to brainstorming, design, sourcing, packaging, and fulfillment. Ready to start your next dream campaign? Let’s chat!