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Cracking the Code: How Direct Marketing and Escape Room Adventures Relate

By Jeanine Norlin, Senior Marketing Manager, Modern Postcard

The goal was simple: work together as a team to uncover clues, solve puzzles and achieve success — all before time runs out. Does this phrase describe an adventure game or a day in the life of a direct marketer? The answer is elementary, my dear readers — it’s both.

I was recently in New York City for a bachelorette celebration. As part of the festivities, we tried an "escape room." If you’re not familiar with this recent phenomena in live adventure experiences, a group of people are locked in a themed room — such as a theater, office or home study — and must find keys and solve clues in order to break free (i.e. win) in a set amount of time.



Since I have an innate curiosity and desire to unravel mysteries, it came as no surprise that I eagerly participated in this adventure. And it didn’t take me long to identify the similarities of the game to direct mail marketing. In the escape room, you translate information into clues and piece them together to reveal your next move. That’s essentially all direct marketing is: assess the situation and use a combination of quantitative and qualitative data to interpret and solve the puzzle — ultimately leading you to your next steps.

I'm proud to say that my escape room group solved the puzzle with plenty of time to spare. When I think back to what made us successful, I realized that it was the same savvy that works so well with Modern’s marketing team. Here are a few takeaways that might help you unlock your next mystery, whether fictional or real-life:

Sense of Urgency. Obviously, with the escape room we had a very specific time limit which motivated us to think and act quickly. The same is true in marketing. Whether it’s buyer seasonality or project deadlines, you’re typically trying to beat the clock, which, of course, compels immediate action.

Collaboration. It helps when you and your teammates know each other well enough to parallelize. Work together to achieve your purpose and pool your unique and individual talents for a common goal.

Communication. Sherlock has a hint and doesn’t disclose it, and Watson needs a hint and doesn't know one exists. When Sherlock and Watson talk to each other about what they know and need, the mystery is solved. Keeping information to yourself is a bottleneck and can drastically thwart any team pursuit. Communicate. Communicate a lot. And then communicate more.

Think Simple. There is one correct approach and probably 10 solutions that are logical but incorrect. Then there are 1,000 farfetched, complex approaches that are so far from the right track that they seem silly in hindsight. The more complicated your solution is, the less likely it is to be right. It’s best not to overthink when you’re analyzing the situation.

Mood Matters. Your demeanor can either help or hurt your problem-solving skills. Our escape room group was in a happy, festive mood, and it made a difference. In marketing, you need to stay positive, which translates to confidence. You also need to be able to shake off a wrong move. You’re going to guess incorrectly — in escape rooms or in marketing. It’s ok! You’ve at least eliminated a bad option and are closer to a solution.

In marketing, there are always new techniques to investigate, cases to crack and trends to un-riddle. While the goal isn’t to escape, becoming a marketing Houdini will free the chains of bad business mistakes and lead you to success.

For more information on working with Modern Postcard to produce smart direct mail campaigns and print promotions, call 800.959.8365.

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We began working with Modern Postcard in 2003 and have been very pleased ever since. We are extremely happy with their quality and service.
Lori Akina
National Speakers Association, Greater Los Angeles Chapter