Dimensional Mail: USPS Mail Innovation Incentives

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

USPS Mail Innovations: What is Dimensional Mail?

Dimensional mailers are not flat like other traditional mail pieces. Dimensional mail shapes include tubes, boxes, spheres, and other unique formats. This type of mail has much higher response rates compared to traditional mailing. Taking advantage of the creative use of non-traditional designs and materials, that 3D mail can offer, will ignite your customers' curiosity and creativity more than a QR code or webkey ever could.

Types of Dimensional Mail

  • 3D Mail
  • Popup Direct Mail
  • Customized MarketMail aka. Shaped Mail
  • Smart Mailers

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 mailers can be a big hit with consumers.

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

Popup Direct Mailers and Smart Mailers

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. 

Using Special 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 compounds, you’ll appreciate the United States Postal Service’s straightforward approach to the ink.

Ink makers produce these products by adding a chemical powder to ink or mixing chemical-imbued ink into a slurry. This is ultimately just a soupy blend of pigment particles and liquid ink. You can manipulate this slurry to create the 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 you remove the UV source, 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. The application of both regular and hydrochromic ink is done 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 cold enough 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 direct 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 dimensional mail project, retention or awareness-building campaign. Just shoot us an email and tell us what you need.

Are 3D Mailers Worth it?

According to a USPS OIG study, some companies saw success with USPS Customized MarketMail, but that was usually associated with a much higher 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.