If you’re like us, you grew up being told that every 20-30 years, what was trending “back in the day” comes back en vogue, usually being tagged “retro” or “vintage.” While that might make you cringe in your everyday life, in marketing, the old adage also rings true: what’s old is new again.

Check out these three old-school marketing tactics making a comeback…and, as a result, quite an impact.

Mail call

Mail is a constant. Even the most obvious junk mail in your mailbox can be more impactful than a marketing email – it’s touchable, readable, and it’s always been there. Though there may have been a reduction in response from direct marketing mail, there’s no denying that it’s still making an impact.

In a digital world, direct mail might feel old or boring. Maybe even stodgy. But the data doesn’t lie – the Association of National Advertisers estimates that direct mail has a response rate of about nine percent. Compared to their findings that email has only about a one percent response rate, it’s safe to say that despite the cost differential, there’s a case to be made for direct mail.

Direct mail is a great testing ground for how true the saying “go big or go home” really is. Fast food drive-in chain Sonic sends out cards that stand at 8.5” x 14” to advertise new products, new hours, or ongoing deals. Because of its size, the card is both memorable and cuttable – perfect for people who want to snip coupons free and take them to the drive-in.

Say “OOH”

When’s the last time you read a billboard? Saw an advertisement on a mall directory screen? Looked up a company advertised on the subway? Out-of-home advertising (OOH) remains an incredibly powerful marketing tool, despite what might be considered an old-school form of deployment. And now that billboards are showing up on smaller screens in places where captive audiences gather – like at gas stations and in taxi cabs – creatives can harness this digital medium to be even more creative.

Big billboards can so easily become part of the landscape of an area’s geography, and they can drive high-density consumer exposure with minimal maintenance and a lot of creativity. What’s more, they’re cheap. Statista reports that of the $297 billion in advertising spent in North America in 2021, a mere $7 billion was on billboards.

You can do a lot with a little money, as the BBC proved with their billboard campaign for their new show Dracula. By day, stylized stakes stick out from the billboard, and by night, lights mounted to the sides of the board form a shadow of the titular character himself. Creepy, cool and effective!

Mascot mania

From Gritty to Grimace, mascots are making a comeback as an integrative marketing tool for the new age – in many cases, designed specifically to appeal to millennials and Gen Zers who grew up when mascot-led campaigns were in their heyday. Whether they’re appearing on social media or in person at games or events, their presence has a certain (often chaotic) appeal that engages consumers.

Grimace made quite a splash on social media, posting a selfie to announce both his presence on the World Wide Web and the advent of a new Grimace-themed meal. The purple creature’s presence quickly became a meme-worthy event online, with words like “unhinged” and “bizarre (affectionate)” being used to describe McDonald’s’s marketing methods.

The next time you’re looking for a fresh marketing mindset, don’t eschew the idea of kicking it old-school. Sure, direct mail campaigns, billboards and mascots might seem like things of the past, but there’s proof they work – and besides, wouldn’t it be fun to get back to the good old days?

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