Monthly Archives: June 2013

What exactly is an ecard and what’s in it for you?

An ecard, or electronic card, is basically a greetings card or postcard created using digital media instead of paper. Ecards are sent and received by email and can also be shared on social media.

Where did ecards originate?

Judith Donath of the MIT Media Lab is credited with creating the first online postcard service in 1994, named The Electric Postcard. After a slow start (just 10-20 cards a day were sent in the first weeks) the concept took off and during the peak of the 1995-96 Christmas season more than 19,000 cards were sent a day.

Since then, the technology behind the ecard has evolved significantly and the market for ecards has proliferated. Initially most ecards were free, often sponsored by advertising. While free ecards are still prevalent, many of the better quality providers now charge a fee for premium ecards which are free from advertising and offer a range of additional features and benefits, as well as guaranteeing stringent policies on data protection and security. Pricing typically ranges from a one-off fee per card to an annual membership which enables users to send multiple cards throughout the duration of their membership.

What are the benefits of ecards?

The digital nature of ecards allows for great versatility and offers a raft of benefits. For example, ecards are immediate. There is no time delay between sending and receipt, and no risk of delivery delays. An ecard can be sent to multiple recipients at once, providing considerable savings in time and costs. Ecards are also considered more environmentally friendly than paper cards, not only in terms of their absence of paper but also because no physical delivery means a reduced carbon footprint.

As technology continues to advance, ecards are becoming increasingly creative and innovative, delivering a rich multimedia experience. Unsurprisingly, this is being noticed by the business community and marketing decision-makers are beginning to realise the power of ecards to engage audience attention and trigger a positive response.

A wide variety of different types of ecard is now available. ‘Static’ ecards are comparable to traditional printed cards in that they use a visual image and/or text with space for a personal message to be added. Animated and video cards use Flash or HTML5 technology to combine moving images with music and sound effects to create anything from a basic cartoon-style animation to the equivalent of a mini advert or short film. Animated cards can also include interactivity, involving the recipient in making selections and taking online actions. These are now further evolving to provide entertaining interactive online games, which are proving of strong interest to marketers for their ability to grab audience attention and their tendency to be widely shared and even go viral.

How are ecards delivered?

Once an ecard has been either selected from a range of online templates and customized for a specific purpose, or custom designed by an ecard provider, it is then delivered to the recipients by email. Here, there are two main options. Simple ecards can be displayed as an image within the body of an email message. However, for cards that employ richer use of media such as Flash animation and video, the cards are hosted on the ecard provider’s website and a link to the card is emailed to recipients.

Proving their worth

The digital nature of ecards enables senders to access valuable data about who has viewed their ecards. This is a vital benefit for business ecard users, enabling decision-makers to track responses to their ecard campaigns and hence evaluate their effectiveness.

5 genuinely useful online marketing blog posts

Here at Ecard Mint we like to keep our collective eyes on the ball of all things digital marketing. There’s no shortage of free tips, tools, blogs and articles ‘out there’ but sometimes it can be a bit of a chore to sort the genuinely useful from the hype. So we thought it might be a good idea, when the genuinely useful grabs our attention, to share it here. Enjoy!

21 tactics to increase blog traffic
“It’s easy to build a blog, but hard to build a successful blog with significant traffic” says SEOmoz blogger Rand Fishkin and then offers a raft of sound practical advice from how to target those audiences who are most likely to share your blog content, to how to ensure your blog is SEO-friendly.

31 must-read social media blog posts
A comprehensive round-up of last year’s best social media articles and blog posts from the excellent Social Media Examiner. How to become a social media rock star, how to calculate the ROI of social media, how guest posting helped one start-up dramatically boost business – and more.

10 of the best social media campaigns from 2012
Learn from the best: Econsultancy’s take on the most memorable, innovative, or downright funny social media campaigns from last year.

10 essential marketing blogs
A really strong list of marketing blogs featuring digital marketing, social media, content marketing, small business marketing and entrepreneurship. A great combination of inspirational big ideas and practical tools and tactics.

Top free Twitter tools for 2013
There’s no doubt about it, Twitter can be a time-consuming business. Check out these five free Twitter tools to help you work ‘smarter, not harder’ in the tweetosphere.

3 key reasons corporate ecards belong in your marketing mix

In last week’s Ecard Mint blog we posed the question: what makes the ecard such an appealing addition to the marketer’s communication toolbox? This week, we’ll explore three key answers to that question (there are of course many more, which we’ll explore in future blog posts).

1. Hitting the “likeability” jackpot

The internet and web 2.0 technologies have changed the way we do business. The sheer volume of marketing messages and the demand for people’s attention are at an all-time high, while impersonal corporate messages are giving way to a more individual, informal and friendly approach. Savvy marketers are increasingly focusing their strategy on securing customer attention and engagement, and brand likeability.

This is precisely where the business ecard is gaining strong ground. An ecard is a rich multimedia experience that can really stand out in a crowded inbox. To your customers it’s a gift. You’re not sending them yet another mailing full of marketing messages to plough through (or, more likely, delete), but a simple greeting – complete with colourful graphic images, a fun slide-show movie or a compelling animation.

Sure, you’re keeping them warm with a gentle reminder of your brand, but in a way that gives pleasure and entertainment. A way that associates your brand with a positive experience in their mind, engendering that all-important feeling of likeability.

2. Reaping the viral potential

A key strength of ecards is their huge viral potential. People love to share, and if you pique their interest with a well-designed card that amuses or entertains them, the chances are that they will forward this on to their colleagues and friends – using the various social media links you cleverly included in the card.

The benefits of this are obvious. In short, your recipients become your extended marketing team (except you don’t have to pay them!). Your ecard allows them to spread your branding, weblinks and key messages far beyond the original mailing list. And you can also seize the opportunity to grow the list by including an ‘opt-in’ button or form within your card.

The more entertaining and well-targeted your ecard, the greater the viral potential.

3. Getting more for your marketing budget

Every manager needs to maximize return on investment. Corporate ecards can deliver exceptional flexibility and versatility, giving more ‘bang’ for your marketing ‘buck’. With ecards as an integral element in your marketing mix, a wide variety of communication initiatives become available in a cost-effective way.

A brief survey of current applications yields a host of creative uses, from launching new products and services with an ‘introductory offer’ ecard, to using an animated ‘mini-ad’ ecard to reinvigorate interest in a maturing product without investing heavily in mass advertising or sales. Charitable and non-profit organisations are using ecards with strong images and mini-stories to generate donations and subscriptions, and as renewal reminders to encourage members’ ongoing support. Some companies are using the celebratory aspect of ecards to share and promote key company milestones and successes, while others are seeking to boost attendance at key events with engaging and entertaining ecard invitations. And many are finding that a simple birthday ecard to their customers can benefit relationships considerably.

Are you already reaping the rewards of using business ecards for marketing purposes? We’d love to hear about your experiences. Please feel free to post a comment here or contact us at [email protected]

Introducing the Ecard Mint blog: why ecards for business?

A versatile and highly cost-effective marketing tool may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word ‘ecard’. However, in recent years the use of ecards for business has seen a significant increase across several key markets including the USA, UK and Australia. Typically, businesses have started by migrating their annual company Christmas card mailing from print to ecard format, then, realising the considerable benefits of digital greetings, have expanded their usage to a broader range of marketing applications.

What makes the ecard such an appealing addition to the marketer’s communication toolbox? Why are business ecards being embraced by companies both small and large? How can public sector organisations and non-profits leverage this cost-effective tool to help their marketing budgets go further?

Here on the Ecard Mint blog we’ll be exploring these types of questions on a weekly basis (you’re busy people, we don’t want to bombard you). We’ll share our experiences of corporate ecards and their potential benefits for a wide range of business purposes – from marketing to internal staff communications.

Once the Ecard Mint website is launched and in full swing from around September, we’ll add some ‘how to’ posts as well as client perspectives and case studies. We’ll also keep our eye on the wider digital marketing world and share some interesting resources, snippets and perspectives.

We look forward to sharing with you and would be delighted to hear your views and experiences.