In the first of our series of blogs on creativity in mail, author, presenter and renowned Creative Director, Patrick Collister, asks how important creativity is for success. 

What is creativity?

It’s a subject I could write a book about.

It’s a subject I have written a book about!

But, in this context, I’ll be brief.

It’s nothing more and nothing less than the ability of the human mind to find solutions to problems.

It requires imagination, an aptitude for looking into the future and seeing how an idea might play out.

So, if we consider JICMAIL for a moment, creativity is what makes some mailings remarkable while others remain invisible.

It’s what delivers startling response rates.

Generates exceptional ROI.

It creates brand loyalty and even brand love.

Creativity, then, is a way of doing business.

It starts with a problem.

Sales are down. Or margins have shrunk. Maybe there’s a new competitor in town. Events (think Brexit or Covid) have made customers cautious.   

The creative mind looks at the problem and tries to redefine it in terms of opportunity.

So, when lockdown closed every pub in Britain, the landlord of The Chequers where I live, door dropped every house in a two-mile radius to let us know they were now doing takeaways.

He has emerged from the pandemic with an enlarged business, a broader customer base and a database of names and addresses.

I said that creativity requires imagination.

Maybe what I really mean is it requires empathy.

So, again looking back at the pandemic, a handful of brands asked, how are our customers feeling right now? What do they need?

It turned out a lot of people were bored.

So they were interested in anything that came through the letterbox.

And the brands that continued to stay in touch through mail were rewarded.

One furniture retailer got an 11% increase in online sales at a time when all their competitors had battened down the hatches.

Creativity isn’t just re-thinking what you say, it’s also how you say it.

Dozens of banks have used mail to say: Switch your mortgage to us and save money!

But only BNZ mailed potential customers $1,000 in old, shredded notes with the message: Look how much you’re wasting each month.


This one mailing led to an increase of $600 million’s worth of mortgage business.

Now that’s creative.

It’s interesting.

Now, here’s the thing about JICMAIL.

They measure the interestingness of mail.

The database reports how long a piece stays in the home. It reports when the recipient opens it, discusses it and when they act on it.

Some mailings stay propped up on a mantelpiece or pinned to a board in the kitchen for months. In fact, JICMAIL tells us that 45% of mail is still in the home after 28 days. Sitting around. Sharing the message. 

What JICMAIL is able to prove to marketers is that mail works.

The question I have as a creative person is, HOW?

Sure, targeting is important.

And a tempting offer.

But the best campaigns have more than that. They have an idea.

Like Land Rover’s “Build Your Own Adventure” pack which won Gold at the 2021 DMA Awards.

Mailed to millennials familiar with Panini football stickers from their youth, it was a sticker-based car configurator.

Of this campaign, JICMAIL say that “25-34-year-olds interact with the average piece of automotive DM 3.5 times a month while reach is boosted by 22% through mail pack sharing in the home.”

In translation, what they’re saying is the pack loitered around a couple of thousand homes for four or five weeks.

What they don’t say is that the idea is clever and fun.

And the reason Land Rover sold 431 vehicles costing between £41,000 and £101,000 a pop.

What makes the magic sauce magic are the ingredients.

And that’s the problem for mail. No-one has come up with a way of measuring creativity.


Until they do, I fear marketers will continue to get less from mail than they might.

Good results rather than great.

JICMAIL’s Top 150 rankings every quarter are a step in the right direction.

The astute viewer will spot the correlation between cleverness and performance. 

And be inspired.


But as I said earlier, a problem defined is an opportunity identified.

All it takes is a bit…a bit of…ah…what’s the word I’m looking for…?

Patrick CollisterCreative training and mentoring. Curator of The Caples Awards

Scroll to top