February 23, 2014 by elainelorent
Every time I’m getting off of the subway on Bryan Park, the same question keeps popping out of my head: Why is there a mailbox painted like a Sponge Bob right there? The answer to this one was not really easy to find. I found out myself waking up in the middle of the night thinking about that mailbox before writing this article. Kidding. But honestly, it took me a while to come to a mature answer.
I firstly had a few hypotheses about the reasons of the existence of those mailboxes. I’m a little bit embarrassed of talking about it but after all, I’m the one who decided to write about a sponge bob mailbox. So according to my opinion, the reasons could potentially be as followed:
- The mailbox was supposed to end up in front of a kinder garden school but unfortunately it got lost along the way and ended up in New York City?
- The person in charge of this mailbox is a strong fan, as I am, of Sponge bob and he just decided that decorating it like this would make his or her workdays more joyful?
- A marketing move to promote the TV-show?
- They just messed up the painting of the mailbox by switching the original blue with the yellow, and then the only solution left was to paint the mailbox as a SpongeBob?
But none of them are relevant, I know. The idea actually comes from USPS itself and is called “SpongeBob Mailpants”. They decided to do an awareness communication campaign targeting kids. The ultimate goal is to motivate children to come back to the basics and write more letters. It has to be said that with the rise of the Internet, those traditional communication methods have the tendency to disappear, which would be a terrible loss according to my opinion. I’m not saying that emails are bad; I’m just saying that real paper letters have a stronger emotional message than email in certain situations.
The action, realized in collaboration with Nickelodeon, will run until June. It was originally supposed to stop in January but regarding the success of it, they decided to extend it. These mailboxes can be found in several big cities of the country: Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Orlando, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Washington D.C. Hollywood, Florida. Plus the decorated mailbox, UPSP offers free postage SpongeBob postcards in more than 25,000 post offices around these cities.
Although the goal of the campaign is to motivate children to get back to paper letters, the US Postal Service did the action with a clear social media focus. On each of these mailboxes, a hashtag was indicated, and the reaction on twitter and Instagram were pretty good. I have to admit that the move is quite abnormal. It’s not everyday that you cross a SpongeBox “real size” in the street, which is an even greater incentive to share pics on social media. Few examples:
If I have to give my opinion about the campaign, I would say that the principle is really smart either by the mailbox location picked up than by the selection of SpongeBob as a figure. However, there was only one thing that disturbed me regarding the campaign: I had to check online by myself to notice that it was actually a move to encourage children to write real letters. The idea is not clear and explicite in this case. I am a frequent user of USPS and even in their locations; I never saw a board or anything explaining the principle or the goal of the campaign. The introduction video (posted below) was barely seen 4,500 times… So even though I am a real fan of the idea (and SpongeBob), I think that the concept isn’t enough developed to actually communicate the main idea about writing letters as well as to reach the initial goal of awareness.
Here’s a short movie showing the making of the mailboxes: