A Melbourne telegram start-up has been approached by Universal Studios, which wishes to pre-purchase several thousand telegrams to help promote a new Hollywood blockbuster.
Mark Sehler, of web-based telegram service Telegram Stop, says he has received a call from the US film studio about pre-purchasing telegrams to help promote Cowboys & Aliens, starring Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig.
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Telegram Stop was developed by internet technology company Madewell Enterprises, founded in 2009 by former MYOB owner Craig Winkler and a team of experts.
Other Madewell projects include restaurant and booking start-up YumTable, and online bill payment and storage service BillsTrust.
Telegram Stop brings the telegram into the 21st century by posting telegrams anywhere in the world, reviving an old form of communication that has since been replaced by cards and emails.
US-based communications company Western Union stopped sending telegrams in 2006, while Australia Post ceased its TELeGRAM service – which converted emails into telegrams – earlier this year.
More than 22,000 telegrams have been sent since operations began three years ago, with the service proving particularly popular in the United States and Britain in addition to Australia.
Sehler says the service is popular for the nostalgic feelings it can invoke because “it’s harking back to scenes on old MASH episodes when they received telegrams”.
He says the service took just 40 hours to develop and cost around $5,000.
“It cost us very little… The original telegrams were printed from a desktop printer. We saw some nice paper stock and it looks fantastic,” he says.
Sehler says the service has doubled in the last two years and is expected to post a similar result this year, predicting it will bring in around $120,000, with telegrams priced at $5.95 each.
He says start-ups should look to the past for inspiration as consumers become increasingly nostalgic about bygone eras.
“There are so many artists bordering that design and craft element – that’s already going on now… Consumers are after an intimate, personal experience with something, not just something that’s bought mass market,” he says.
“It’s a trend that has been emanating since we started the product, particularly where everything has become too glossy and too de-personalised, such as smartphones.”
Sehler also believes there is a trend towards de-consumption, with consumers less able to justify elaborate purchases in light of tough economic conditions, both locally and globally.
He says start-ups should look for ways to complement the existing consumer experience rather than attempt to add to it.
“Product and price are important but it’s about finding a unique, novel experience that gets a smile out of people and doesn’t cost a lot of money,” he says.