Why Can’t I Mail It? – Postcards

What do you mean the post office won’t let me mail it this way? Almost every day we get this question from a client. Since the post office has made mailing very complicated, there are many times that a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign. Let’s start this week, with Postcards

What do you mean the post office won’t let me mail it this way? Almost every day we get this question from a client. Since the post office has made mailing very complicated, there are many times that a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign.

Let’s start this week, with Postcards:

  1. Postcard size is 3.5 x 5 to 4.25 x 6, anything larger is considered to be in the letter category.
    Go figure! The post office saying that a 6 x9 postcard is not really a postcard, but a letter? Who thinks of these rules?
  2. Paper stock must be a minimum of .007 thick, anything less is not mailable unless you put it in an envelope.
    In this case, the rule makes
    sense. When the paper is too thin, the postal machines rip them up. Better to go with a thicker stock that won’t look like someone took a bite out of it before delivery.
  3. Keep your aspect ratio between 1.3 and 2.5. In order to calculate the aspect ratio, you start by looking at the mail panel, then take the length of the postcard and divide it by the height.
    We are told that the reason for this rule is machine compatibility, when the postcard is short and long, it does not run through the equipment correctly, causing jams and again torn postcards. We don’t want that!
  4. There are two options for addressing a postcard:
    • Barcode in the address block—4×2 clear area, no varnish, UV coating, text, or images for the address block. The block needs to be a minimum .5 inches from the right edge and .625 inches from bottom edge. The block can be no higher from the bottom of the mailer than 3.5 inches. Lastly, the address must remain at a minimum distance from graphics or text of .125 inches.
    • Barcode clear zone addressing—the barcode clear zone is the bottom 5/8 of the postcard and must be free of all color, text and images. Next the address block must be a minimum 0.5 inches from the right edge and minimum of 0.625 inches from bottom edge. The block can be no higher from the bottom of the mailer than 3.5 inches. Lastly the address must remain at a minimum distance from graphics or text of .125 inches.
      These requirements are meant to keep the address in the OCR (Optical Character Reader) read area of the postal equipment. Honestly, the current equipment has more read area than this, but getting the post office to change rules in our favor does not happen!

Your best bet is to design your postcard and then send a pdf to your direct mail provider, to have them find any problems with the design. They can help to make sure you are automation compliant and save on postage.

As you are going through the process, do not let it stop your creativity. It is the unique and creative pieces that get the recipients attention and increase your ROI. Do not let these regulations limit your design. There are plenty of ways to create postcards that standout and get attention! Contact your mail provider for samples and suggestions.

Author: Summer Gould

A blog about Direct Mail Marketing, tips, tricks and what not to do.Summer Gould is President of Eye/Comm Inc. Summer has spent her 27 year career helping clients achieve better marketing results. She has served as a panel speaker for the Association of Marketing Service Providers conferences. She is active in several industry organizations and she is a board member for Printing Industries Association San Diego, as well as a board member for Mailing Systems Management Association of San Diego. You can find her at Eye/Comm Inc’s website: eyecomm.org, email: summer.gould@eyecomm.org, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @sumgould.

10 thoughts on “Why Can’t I Mail It? – Postcards”

  1. These types of problems have been around for over 30 years. The most frustrating thing to me is when you get direct postal approval on a 100% accurate mock-up, have the printed piece replicate the mock-up 100%, and then have USPS reject the approved rate on the mailing for some reason the original approver overlooked. Escalate your appeal on that, but if the time delay is a killer, you’ve got no alternative to paying the surcharge….

  2. Great post, Summer. We have similar issues with Canada Post. Always good to check with your mail shop BEFORE printing.

  3. Keep in mind that the .007" minimum thickness is only for postcards that are within the 4.25" X 6" size. For pieces larger than that the minimum thickness is .009"

  4. Love the first one on postcard size – for some reason client’s have a hard time understanding this one. "But we printed it on postcard stock – how come it’s a letter!"

  5. Great informative article Summer, thank you for sharing your expertise with us.
    I shall share it on twitter and LinkedIn.

  6. These are great tips, Summer! Even with the influx of digital media, I believe that direct mail is still an important and very beneficial form of marketing. Although, we need to make sure that marketers aren’t intimated by the tool. There are so many factors that marketers need to think about when planning for a direct mail campaign. However, the key to successful direct marketing has always been personalization. When consumers are exposed to nearly 3,000 messages a day, but only notice about 50 and remember just four, earning a spot in the “final four” is the goal. Why waste your time figuring out the mailing process if your message doesn’t break through the clutter? So, focus on relevancy to reach your end-user. If you create meaningful, engaging content, then you won’t have to worry about your postcard ending up in the trash. – Shelley Sweeney, VP/GM Service Bureau/Direct Mail Sectors, Xerox

  7. Thank you all for your great comments! You all point out our pain points as well as where our focus should be. I look forward to your future comments as we post more blogs.

  8. Being a Postal Employee and specializing in Every Door Direct Mail I have to clarify a couple of things.
    The pieces are designed to be bigger than a post card so they stand out in your mail.
    A post card is $.34 and an EDDM pice, no mater the size (max is 12" by 15") it is only $.175 or about half the cost of a post card
    There is no address at all. It simply goes to "Local Postal Customer"
    None of the mail pieces go through a machine EVER. They are pre-sorted standard mail that goes directly to the post office in the zip code you choose and is picked up byt the mail carrier there.
    Your information is not correct at all. You are comparing apples to oranges when you compare Every Door Direct Mail to post cards. My team specializes in walking people through the first time they use EDDM at no cost. Our services are provided as a compliment by the Postal Service. If you are interested in using Every Door Direct Mail simply go to USPS.com, register for free and someone will contact you within a day or two. It isn’t complicated at all. You don’t have your facts correct and have made a very misleading statement.

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