It’s Our Mail Moment

“What are we going to do with this moment?” That’s the challenge from a presentation by Harris Diamond, the chairman and CEO of McCann Worldgroup, at this week’s National Postal Forum. Technological and cultural changes are affecting how consumers experience brands, and this has implications for direct mail.

“What are we going to do with this moment?” That’s the big challenge from a presentation I attended by Harris Diamond, the chairman and CEO of McCann Worldgroup, at this week’s National Postal Forum in Nashville, Tenn.

He was part of a discussion, “Welcome to the Experience Economy,” led by U.S. Postal Service Chief Marketing and Sales Officer Jim Cochrane. The all-star industry panelists shared their perspectives on how technological and cultural changes are affecting how consumers experience brands, and the implications this has for direct mail.

In one sense, Diamond was talking about the “mail moment,” the reaction of consumers to the direct mail that they receive. The lives of most people are increasingly cluttered with digital messaging, so this is the time when the tactile, physical nature of mail arriving at a consumer’s home can make a different impression. It’s a concept that the USPS has been talking about for a few years.

But he was also talking about the new possibilities facing marketers.

Thanks to advancements in technology, as well as an ability to align with developing social trends, “mail is on the edge of a new frontier,” he said, far beyond catchy art and copy. It has “the potential to be more powerful than ever before.”

A lot of this we already know. Maybe it’s using special textures, scents, or sizes in a mailing. Or maybe it’s digital technologies, like augmented reality, QR Codes, or NFC.

USPS_01It’s why the USPS has the “Irresistible Mail” campaign: to incentivize marketers to use new techniques that make mail more personal and relevant to the consumer. To make the “mail moment” more powerful.

To provide food for thought, Diamond offered five interesting creative rules. As you would expect, they focus on using electronic media in direct mail to engage with audiences in the most effective way possible.

For example: “Go where your customers are.” He cited the highly visible outreach of Pope Francis to previously under-served groups. And he showed a bit of President Obama’s “Between Two Ferns” video interview. His point? Don’t stand on tradition when there’s an opportunity to communicate with an audience in a different way.

But it was Diamond’s last rule that most resonated with me: focus on the relationship with the consumer and understand what they are comfortable with.

Mail will have an impact “if it adds value to their lives,” he said.

This is the guideline that is as necessary as it’s ever been: to think always of benefits, not features. To think ahead about what you want your target audience to do, and how the mailing, with its technological enhancements, will accomplish that. For marketers, as Diamond said, “the mail moment is right now.”

5 USPS Direct Mail Promotion Programs for 2016

The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) has approved the USPS proposal for five programs offering incentives to mailers to increase mail volumes.

Mail StarThe Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) has approved the USPS proposal for five direct mail promotion programs offering incentives to mailers to increase mail volumes. Many are the same or similar to last year. Direct mail has many unique qualities that the following promotions try to exploit. They grab recipient’s attention and increase ROI. Which ones would you like to try out?

1. Emerging and Advanced Technology/Video In Print Promotion
March 1 – Aug. 31, 2016.
You earn a 2 percent postage discount. This is for First Class, Standard and Nonprofit letters, cards or flats. The mail piece must incorporate any of the following technologies including: standard NFC technology, video in print (ViP), beacon technology or an “enhanced’ augmented reality. These technologies will allow the recipient to engage in an interactive experience using the mail piece and mobile devices, tablets, etc. This year’s promotion includes an option for A/B testing. Click here for all the details.

2. Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Mail Piece Engagement Promotion
March 1 – Aug. 31, 2016.
You earn a 2 percent postage discount. This is for Standard and Nonprofit letters or flats. Print elements can be incorporated into direct mail to engage a multi-sensory experience through special visual effects, sound, scent, texture/tactile treatments, or even taste. In addition, interactive features such as pop-ups, infinite folds, or other dimensional creations also qualify. Click here for all the details.

3. Earned Value Promotion
April 1 – June 30, 2016.
You can earn a $0.02 – $0.03 credit per piece of returned mail for both First Class Business Reply Mail and First Class Courtesy Reply Mail. The credits will be added to your USPS account for use in future mailings. Click here for all the details.

4. Personalized Color Transpromo Promotion
July 1 – Dec. 31, 2016.
You earn a 2 percent postage discount. This is only for First Class mail. Adding a color message on a statement or invoice to sell other products or services is a great idea. Remember that it must be personalized, however an image is not required. Click here for all the details.

5. Mobile Shopping Promotion
July 1 – Dec. 31, 2016.
You earn a 2 percent postage discount. This is for Standard and Nonprofit letters or flats. The mail piece must include a mobile barcode such as a QR Code or print/mobile technology such as NFC that can be read or scanned by a mobile device and then takes the recipient to a mobile-optimized shopping website in order to make a purchase. Click here for all the details.

Many of the promotions listed above are great ways to enhance your direct mail. Check out the 2016 USPS Promotion Calendar by clicking here. I especially like the Tactile, Sensory and Interactive one because there are so many creative ways to take advantage of saving on postage and really making a great impression with customers and prospects.

All of the promotions require mailers to register for them in order to qualify for the up-front discount. In many cases, there are other stipulations after mailing as well, so make sure to check out all of the requirements for each one you are interested in.