We still send Christmas cards. Why new tech doesn’t always kill old

I just posted my Christmas cards, and it turns out I’m not alone. In an era of text messages, Tweets, emails and short videos,¬†research for the Royal Mail found that 78% of UK adults would be sending Christmas cards via the post, and each person will send an average of 17 cards. There are no doubt a number of reasons why we may continue to send cards at Christmas (tradition, they decorate the house for the season, and sometimes a card is in lieu of a gift). But this behaviour reminds us that new digital tools and technologies will not necessarily kill off traditional ways of doing things.

Just as the cinema didn’t kill off theatre-going, and TVs didn’t kill off cinema-going, new technology often doesn’t kill off the old. What happens instead is that consumers become more nuanced in the tools and devices they use for different purposes. Things become more complex.

They may previously have sent hundreds of cards by post at Christmas, but now they will be doing a complex segmentation of their contacts. Some people will get cards, others texts or picture messages, and maybe others still just a generic holiday video or message. As new tools come along, this often allows us to act in what may seem like a more natural way – spending more time and effort on certain people, communicating in ways that are more natural to them or being more efficient in our spend.

The challenge with new technology, and new ways of communicating, is to remember that the new will not necessarily completely replace the old. Rather the way consumers use all of these technologies (new and old) will change. Brands need to understand not just the role of the new, but also how the role of the old will change (as it surely will).

Digital technologies are not just adding new channels and ways of communicating, they are changing the entire mix of communication and the way that brands interact with consumers – offline as much as online. And this means that digital cannot be considered in isolation from these other channels; it’s about mixing the right data sets, skills and technologies in the way that will best achieve their objectives.