Sending Free Artwork Postcards on NanaGram Just Because

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By Alex Cook

A nice part of running an independent software product is you can do sometimes things just because you feel like it. In the age of growth/revenue/metrics/etc, building software products can sometimes end up leaving you feeling… grey. Even working on an amazingly fun product like NanaGram can sometimes get boring if one gets too close.

NanaGram is designed to increase connection between young and old. I originally created it for my grandparents as a gift for my grandfather when he turned 94. While it’s not just for elderly people, they’re the group that benefits the most. This always surprises me: It’s not exercise or diet, or how much you drink or smoke that predicts a long life. It’s the frequency and quality of your social interactions.

NanaGram’s core product (sending 4×6 prints in the mail to your loved ones) helps bring people closer together. For example, countless customers have told me their loved one calls them the moment they get every delivery to chat about the photos and life. When the pandemic emerged I started thinking about hundreds of NanaGram recipients who became even more isolated if there was anything I could do to brighten their days.

Sure, NanaGram increases connection with more (and more fun) phone calls and visits, but the pandemic got me thinking about how to make the service more interactive for recipients. I got an idea and pitched it to my brother-in-law Matt Woods (@hallowwoods). Every month, let’s draw a cute animal, print it on a blank 4×6 postcard and include it with people’s NanaGram photo deliveries. He agreed! Matt is a seriously prolific artist, creating unique art each day for his Instagram so I wasn’t surprised he was up for the challenge.

A black lab with his tongue out, holding a white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap. The drawing is done with colored pencil.
July 2020

Every month for 18 months, Matt created inspiring, adorable art. We printed tens of thousands of postcards. We gave people a way to opt out of the free postcards. Few did.

A cute, brown squirrel facing right and on the right side of the image, holding an acorn. Leaning up against him on the left side is a comparatively large, white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap. The drawing is done with colored pencil.
September 2021
Image of a NanaGram art postcard back. There are 3 lines on the right side and a NanaGram logo on it. There's credit to Matt Woods 
as well
The blank postcard template we printed on the back

If I’d done something like this inside a big company it would’ve been cancelled within the first couple of months. It’s not the kind of thing that can easily be tracked to some kind of ROI and even if it was, it probably isn’t a profitable experiment.

A beautiful, colorful wild turkey. He's walking towards the right. His tail is red, feathers yellow, brown, dark orange, and white tipped. In his mouth is a white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap.
November 2021

I still don’t really know what kind of an impact these postcards had. I could’ve done a better job reaching out to recipients for feedback but like I said, I did this just because I wanted to, not for ROI. (Okay, maybe ROI in terms of Return-On-Brightening-People’s-Days — ROBPD —  it’s not about money.)

Chances are, in January and February I’ll probably get a bunch of voicemails from NanaGram recipients asking what happened to the postcards!

A regal, beautiful polar bear. He has a wreath made of green holly with red berries wrapped around his neck. He looks cuddly but he is not! Inside the wreath is a white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap. By comparison to him, it's tiny.
December 2021, the last in the series

You can check out all of the postcards in the series below.

While visiting my aunt recently I told her we’d be ending the series. She asked if she could order note cards with a blank inside. I asked Matt if he’d notecard sets but he’s unsure if enough people would want them. If you’re interested in ordering a set, contact me!

A pidgeon. When you see them on the street, they're ugly. But look closer; they're very pretty. this one is grey and black but on his neck is a series of beautiful green feathers. He's got beady orange eyes. In his beak he's holding a white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap.
June 2020
A black lab with his tongue out, holding a white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap. The drawing is done with colored pencil.
July 2020
Yuck, a mouse. In August 2020, rats raided the parking lot of our condo building. Did my brother Matt draw a mouse to tease us? I am not a fan of rodents, but some people find them cute so I let it slide. This little guy is holding a white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap. The envelope is about 4 times the size of the mouse.
August 2020
A beautiful, yellow-brown turtle. Draped over the top of his body is white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap. Only half the envelope is visible. I believe this is a box turtle.
September 2020
A BAT! October is Halloween, after all, and Halloween is my brother Matt's jam. This bat is flying, facing you and holding a white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap. His wing span is about twice the width of the envelope below him. Or her!
October 2020
November 2020, the last presidential election. A bald eagle, our nation's bird mascot, holding a white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap. Except this time the envelope is stamped BALLOT. The eagle is facing towards the left with his left eye facing you. The envelope goes through is beak with a tiny corner sticking out.
November 2020
A truly wonderful Christmas postcard featuring a reindeer buck. Wrapped in his antlers are red and green Christmas lights. In the top right of his antler is a white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap.
December 2020
Awww, penguins! A fluffy, baby penguin sits on the ground with an adult pigeon standing on his right. Tucked under his right arm pit is a white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap. The baby penguin is all grey except for his black and white head. The adult is black and white.
January 2021
A red cardinal's wings are magnificently displayed as he flies towards you while grasping a white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap. 

Originally, there was a female cardinal but with Matt's roots deeply in the Halloween spirit both birds featured the feet of a bat instead of a bird. After a bit of back and forth, we decided to stick to a cuter theme and eliminate the female cardinal.
February 2021
Coming off the cardinal-with-bat-feet (previous image), Matt went all-in on the cute factor to create this fluffy bunny with massive ears for March 2021. He's eating some green clovers. On the ground next to him on the right is a white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap.
March 2021
Two yellow and orange daffodils. a white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap is featured tucked in the leaves of the larger flower on the right. Flying above the envelope is a beautiful orange and yellow monarch butterfly.
April 2021
Two yellow ducklings in the rain. Pencil with watercolor (I'm pretty sure) water drops. Draped over the duck on the left is a white envelope with a heart heart on it. 

Funny thing: Of over 100,000 NanaGram shipments, not a single one has ever been returned by the USPS due to water damage. However, the first one came back in the summer of 2021, so drenched I could not read the text at all. Inside that envelope was THIS POST CARD.
May 2021
A magical unicorn with a dark grey body, white noise, long grey hair, and rainbow horn. 🌈
June 2021
A mason jar, "BALL MASON" with several glowing fireflies flying about. Next to the mason jar is a white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap.
July 2021
A cute, brown squirrel facing right and on the right side of the image, holding an acorn. Leaning up against him on the left side is a comparatively large, white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap. The drawing is done with colored pencil.
August 2021
The only sea creature in the series is possibly the smartest of all: A dolphin, jumping out of the water and balancing a white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap.
September 2021
Halloween 2021; a black cat. His body is facing away from you but his neck turned to the right looking into your soul. He's got bright orange and black eyes. His tail creeps around the front and around a white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap.
October 2021
A beautiful, colorful wild turkey. He's walking towards the right. His tail is red, feathers yellow, brown, dark orange, and white tipped. In his mouth is a white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap.
November 2021
A regal, beautiful polar bear. He has a wreath made of green holly with red berries wrapped around his neck. He looks cuddly but he is not! Inside the wreath is a white envelope with a red heart stamped on the back covering the flap. By comparison to him, it's tiny.
December 2021

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