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Singing telegrams make new-media debut in Western Union’s brand refresher campaign

In yet one more example of old ways of communication adapting to new media, Western Union is bringing back singing telegrams, this time delivered not by humans but by your trusty email.
The company introduced the singing telegram in 1933 to change the association of telegrams with bad news such as death, according to The New York Times.
Now, 78 years later, Western Union is once again using singing telegrams to change public perception, this time from the ho-hum image of a financial institution to that of a source of fun and good news.
According to ABC News, the singing telegrams are part of a worldwide branding campaign by Western Union themed “Moving money for better.”
Diane Scott, Western Union’s chief marketing officer and president of Western Union Ventures, said in a statement reported by ABC News, “The singing telegram is a natural fit for us to help consumers around the world virtually connect with their family and friends, giving them the gift of music, their personal image and voice, to make their day better.”
Western Union launched the beta version of a microsite today that will allow customers to create singing telegrams, either using their own voices and images, or those of a cast of performers that include Snoop Dogg and Timbaland, as well as several international stars that may appeal to customers outside the U.S.
The company is offering singing telegrams free until Dec. 31, 2011, after which they will be available for a small fee.
As is often the case with products morphing to the new media environment, the question that comes to mind is what impact the new forms will have on brick-and-mortar versions or, in this case, human versions.
After Western Union ceased offering singing telegrams in 1974, a new cottage industry developed, in which actors, singers and impersonators can be hired to deliver a message to an unsuspecting guest at a party.
Will Western Union’s digital-era singing telegrams hurt the ones typically delivered by humans?
Rich Lanford, owner of Southern Stars Atlanta, a company that offers singing telegrams delivered by actors, said it probably won’t.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for our line of business because an e-mailed singing telegram will never be as intense as a personal one,” he said.
Lanford explained that embarrassment is what makes a singing telegram so impactful, regardless of the form or content, simply because it’s delivered in front of a group when the person least expects it.
“I don’t think an emailed singing telegram can have that kind of impact, so I don’t see how they can hurt our business,” Lanford said.
“The economy is what is affecting our business. When things get tough, we are one of the first people who get hit,” he added.

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