Had you been wandering around Gatwick Airport’s North Terminal last month, chances are you would have spotted something unusual going on near the Virgin Atlantic check-in desks. No, not Richard Branson taking selfies with napping employees again, but a gallery of over 200 postcards curated by Tom Jackson, creator of the popular Twitter account “Postcard from the Past”. Displayed from May 30th to June 23rd, the collection stretched back more than 70 years, providing entertaining snippets from people’s trips to far-flung locations (the standout excerpt being: “I don’t know whether we are at war or not, but suppose it can wait until we return to find out”).
While the gallery was part of an initiative to embrace postcards at a time when they are being increasingly overshadowed by social platforms, an accompanying study commissioned by Gatwick has revealed that 18 to 34 year-olds were 55% more likely to have sent a postcard on their last holiday compared with travellers aged 35 and over. Despite the sharp decline in postcards, it is heart-warming to hear that the average millennial is finding time to write one in between the odd hot dog legs post on Instagram. However, I believe this trend has less to do with an appreciation for written correspondence and actually stems more from Generation Y’s emerging fascination for vintage print.
Now, being a millennial myself – a slightly older one, admittedly – I must confess that I have a strange fascination with dated prints. Whenever I’m in Brighton I always seem to end up in an alternative-looking store sifting through rows of vintage prints, whether they are loveably confident ads from the 1950s (“You’ve never tasted finer coffee! NEVER!”) or glorious illustrations of the once majestic British railway. Yet, while I find it odd to already refer to postcards as outdated, the sharp rise of social media’s popularity in the past ten years has somehow managed to expedite their ageing process and they now fit neatly into the ‘vintage’ category.
So where does the love for vintage print come from? Ask any marketing guru what is the best way to connect with millennials and they will say the value we are most likely to be won over by is “authenticity”. And while I appreciate that people don’t like to be reduced to a tick in a box on a focus group sheet, for me that statement rings true.
After all, in a time when we are obsessively browsing and sharing content on miniature screens, what feels truer, more genuine, more authentic than taking the time to pick up a printed picture and write a short message – humorous or heartfelt – to a distant friend you wish was there with you? So pick up a pen and put down your phone – that hot dog legs pic can wait.