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USPS Mail Innovation Incentives Part 3: Dimensional Mail

June 24, 2015 Categories: Emerging Technologies, Industry News, USPS Updates Tags: , , , , , ,

The first post in this three-part series gave an overview of three incentive-eligible technology categories. The second went deeper into one of them, electronic mail, including video in print, mobile in print and others (it’s been a real reader favorite, so check it out after finishing this post). In this last article of the series we’ll take a quick look at a category the Postal Service calls ‘dimensional’ mail.

Forget, for a moment, about familiar techniques mentioned in the first and second posts. Dimensional mail pumps up mailpiece engagement through the creative use of non-traditional designs and materials, including some of the ‘weird science’ variety, which may ignite your curiosity and creativity more than a QR code or webkey ever could.

3D Mail

Any company with a creative team or ad agency (and a decent DM budget) is familiar with three dimensional mailers. Marketers love creating them and take great pride in making pieces as fun, engaging and interactive as possible. And if higher recall and response rates are any indication, 3D mail can be big hit with consumers.

Despite being more production-intensive than other mail types, three dimensional mail is often fairly lightweight and can be affordable to ship in larger quantities, according to the Postal Service.

Make Your Message (Literally) Pop

When removed from their envelopes, dimensional mailers unfold, pop or pull easily into a cleverly interactive freestanding piece. According to research firm CRMTrends, response rates for popup direct mailers beat those of conventional flat pieces by as much as 40 percent. Smart marketers have added QR codes and NFC (near field communications) to 3D mail to help push reader engagement even higher.

Customized MarketMail (aka ‘Shaped’ Mail)

What makes this category special are its unique physical characteristics, including unconventional shapes, sizes, and materials. Marketing teams often prefer Shaped mail because it allows them to convey branding and messages in a fresh and unexpected way.

For added effect (and easy tracking), perforated reply cards and coupons may be attached to or within a Customized MarketMail piece.  The medium also accommodates QR codes, augmented reality and NFC. Pieces may be made of virtually any material, as long as they fit USPS size requirements listed here. 

But What Price Success?

Some companies have enjoyed success with Customized MarketMail, according to the USPS OIG study, but usually at a price. One company doubled its inbound call activity after issuing a colorful plastic Shaped mailer, while another reported a ten-percent bump in redemptions after running its card-stock based campaign.

However, one Customized MarketMail company cited in the study estimates that costs for its pieces can be double or quadruple those of a traditional direct mail campaign. Bottom line: if your budget can bear them, the ROI of 3D and Customized MarketMail may be worth the investment.

And now for something really interesting (and hopefully not too geeky).

‘Interesting’ Inks:  Reader Activated Magic

We love this ink moniker for its mystery but also its simplicity. Once you learn about the science behind these versatile specialty compounds, you’ll also appreciate the Postal Service’s plain-spokenness.

Ink makers produce these products by adding a chemical powder to ink or mixing chemical-imbued ink into a slurry, which is just a soupy blend of pigment particles and liquid ink, manipulated to create a desired color and thickness. When readers physically engage with the ink-treated piece, magical marketing things can happen.

Photochromics--Light Activated

When exposed to ultraviolet light (UV), like sunlight, these inks change colors. When the UV source is removed, the image or words return to their original state. Prolonged UV exposure, however, will cause a permanent color change, as the ink’s ability to change back and forth dissipates.

Hydrochromics--Water Activated

As the prefix ‘hydro’ implies, coming in contact with water causes a color change in these inks. Regular ink and hydrochromic ink are applied in layers. Messages can be made to appear or disappear when the paper is either wet or dry.  Messages can also be non-reversible, meaning that the image or words will change permanently after water is applied.

Leuco Dyes--Temperature Activated

Where photochromic inks are UV sensitive, leuco dyes change from clear to color (or color to clear) with changes in temperature. “A change from a color to clear can reveal a printed message…that was not visible…until the advertisement’s environment reaches a certain temperature,” says the USPS Mail Innovations Report. One popular maker of ‘cold filtered’ beer uses leuco dyes to turn areas of its label blue when bottles are properly chilled and ready to drink. 

Compassion-Activated Ink?

Most marketers may never get a chance like this --which, in truth, has nothing to do with the USPS or its incentives. But if, like us, you appreciate creativity, innovation and making a difference in people’s lives, you’ll want to view this fascinating two-minute video about Sri Lanka.

It shows how one national newspaper mixed insect repellent into its ink as part of a dengue fever awareness and prevention campaign. Readers could learn about the outbreak, then use their copy of the newspaper as a physical line of defense.

And speaking of marketing creativity and innovation, FSSI has an entire in-house Marketing Services team, including designers, writers, digital color experts and project managers, standing by and ready to lend support to your next acquisition, retention or awareness-building campaign. Just shoot us quick email and tell us what you need.