2022 USPS Promotions and How to Use Them

              A new year means fresh promotions from the United States Postal Service!  There are six new opportunities to spice up your direct mail projects while also saving on postage costs.  Running throughout the entire year, the promotions are available to any business registered on the USPS Business Customer Gateway.  The purpose of these offers is to incentivize the use of direct mail as a medium for advertising and help businesses increase their campaign ROI.  Each of the six programs lasts 3 to 6 months with varying discounts so you can begin to take advantage immediately!

Tactile, Sensory, and Interactive Mail Piece Engagement

              This promotion runs from February 1 to July 31, 2022 and offers a 4% discount on postage.  It effectively highlights how far the print industry has come with advanced print technologies.  Tactile engagement encourages consumers to interact with their mail piece through touch.  Using specialty inks like thermochromics a postcard can change color when in contact with body heat.  Sensory mail pieces engage the senses with visual effects, scent, and texture.  Did you know that you can infuse paper with an aroma or create a holographic effect on art?  Finally, interactive elements excite and surprise recipients.  Cut outs, pop ups, and folds encourage creativity in children and adults alike.  Marketing Mail letters and flats, First-Class Mail letters, flats and cards are all eligible.

Earned Value Reply Mail

              This offer spans from April 1 to June 30.  Businesses can earn a $.02 per mail piece credit when they use Business Reply Mail, Courtesy Reply Mail, or Share Mail.  Once approved, the credits can then be applied to Marketing Mail letters and flats and First-Class Mail letters, cards, and flats.  This type of mail is valuable because it encourages recipients to respond by giving them an easy way to engage with your brand through reply mail, thereby increasing ROI. 

Informed Delivery

              The promotion for Informed Delivery is active from August 1 to December 31 and offers a 4% discount on qualifying automation Marketing Mail letters and flats and qualifying automation First-Class Mail letters, cards, and flats.  This campaign promotes the USPS’ Informed Delivery omnichannel feature in which mail piece recipients can preview their mail online before even receiving the physical piece.  This is a way for customers to engage virtually with a direct mail campaign, encouraging higher response rates.

Emerging and Advanced Technology

              Running from March 1 to August 31, this new promotion marries print and technology perfectly to foster an exciting customer experience.  Marketing Mail letters and flats and qualifying automation First-Class Mail letters, cards, and flats apply.  Enhanced alternate reality, virtual reality, or video-in-print are all examples of technologies that qualify.  You can even incorporate a voice assistant!  For example, use messaging that reads: To shop products online, say “Alexa, take me to the Urban Outfitter’s website.”  Depending on the technology used, businesses can expect 2-3% back on postage. 

Personalized Color Transpromo

              This offer is all about color and making mail bright and exciting.  From July 1 to December 31, first time participants can send first class statements and bills in full color to receive a 3% discount.  For repeat participants, there is an added measure to receive the discount.  They must add a personalized touch, such as the recipient’s name. Personalization and color are a proven winning combination for direct mail.

Mobile Shopping

              The last promotion on the calendar falls just in time for the holiday season when online shopping hits its peak.  Its promotion period runs from September 1 to December 31, and businesses who participate receive 2% off Marketing Mail letters and flats and Nonprofit Marketing Mail letters and flats.  To qualify, the mail piece must include mobile technology that directs the user to an online shipping experience.  Examples include the use of QR codes and image recognition technology which lead users to a mobile site or product when scanned.  Removing obstacles between a customer and a product is an easy catalyst for a mobile purchase. 

              Check out our easy-to-read infographic on the 2022 promotions here and contact your CCG rep to start your next direct mail campaign!

By Marley Niesz

CCG’s Update on the Paper Industry and Supply Shortages

We are experiencing unprecedented times in the printing industry regarding paper supply, including monthly price increases. September’s upcoming increase will be the fifth price increase in 2021. This has never happened before.  

When COVID-19 hit, demand for paper dropped by 50%. The mills/manufacturers responded by adjusting their workforce and equipment. Paper machines that were older and marginal were shut down with no plans to start back up.  Additionally, the need for paperboard and packaging materials skyrocketed with the pandemic. People were quarantined at home and ordered most everything online. This trend has continued, causing transportation issues. Containers that would normally carry paper are carrying packaging materials with a higher profit margin for the transportation industry than paper. 

All paper is on allocation, meaning if you are a printer and have been buying a certain amount of paper consistently you can expect to be able to buy that amount. However, if something unexpected comes up, you probably are going to have trouble getting paper for it.  Currently, coated paper in rolls is nearly impossible to obtain. Uncoated is slightly better, but with a caveat. The mills are making the papers that provide them with the highest profit margin. For uncoated paper, this means that they are prioritizing the production of higher end papers such as opaque offset stock, instead of everyday uncoated that every printer uses.  

We are in a situation where demand exceeds supply. Manufacturers normally run at 85% of capacity but are currently at 115%. Because of volatility in the market, mills are not going to jump right back in and increase capacity. Equipment that was shut down with no intention of starting back up will not be coming back online due to the time and money needed to put machines back into production.  

As a consumer, what can you do in the meantime? If you can predict what your needs are going to be for the coming months, CCG recommends ordering stock 60 days ahead of time. That may not be feasible in every situation, but it will really help us to help you.  We are buying paper as much as possible in advance when the mills let us know something is available.  Together we can navigate through this time of short paper supply, and CCG looks forward to assisting you and meeting your needs and objectives. 

By Bill Giles

Valentine’s Day– How the Printing Industry Steals Hearts

              Possibly the most exciting class party of elementary school each year fell on Valentine’s Day.  I don’t know what it was about turning a shoebox into a “mailbox” and collecting Valentines from classmates, but Valentine’s Day took the cake.  I remember meticulously picking out my box of printed Valentines each year, usually featuring cats, and making sure the one I gave my crush didn’t come across as too romantic.  Whether consumers have realized it or not, Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest commercial holidays of the year, and a significant one for the print industry and for marketers. 

              One of the biggest spectacles of Valentine’s Day is engagement.  Although engagement and diamond rings go together seamlessly, it wasn’t always so.  In the aftermath of the Great Depression, diamond cartel De Beers solicited the help of New York agency N.W. Ayer to sell its new expanse of South African diamonds.  The ad agency worked to craft the idea that endless, special romance could only be expressed with a diamond ring.  The result was the iconic, highly successful slogan “A Diamond Is Forever.”  As women began to expect a diamond ring as a form of engagement, men followed suit, and diamond sales rose exponentially, increasing from $23 million to $2.1 billion over the next 40 years.  With that, a simple marketing message turned a campaign into a worldwide phenomenon that stands the test of time.

                With this knowledge, I was curious to find out more about the print industry’s role in Valentine’s Day.  Where and when did printed Valentine’s Day cards begin stealing the hearts of consumers?  Surprisingly, the practice of exchanging Valentine’s notes dates all the way back to the 1500s with the gifting of handmade cards and love notes.  By the 1700s, the print industry took advantage and began producing commercially printed cards.  The United States adopted this trend around the mid-1800s, and valentines often depicted Cupid, hearts, and other symbols associated with love.  While original Valentine’s notes were often hand-made, the onset and growing affordability of commercial print increased the sales and availability of pre-made cards. 

              Enter Esther Howland, the “Mother of the American Valentine”, whose romantic cards were attributed as the first mass market printed valentines in the United States.  Achieving huge success, she rebranded as the New England Valentine Company, the first of many print companies solely focused on the production of valentines.  One of the most famous valentines companies was Hallmark Valentines, which is still around today.  Hallmark is often credited with the commercialization of Valentine’s Day, as other inspired companies joined in on the fun selling chocolates, flowers, and other gifts, shaping the holiday we know today.

              At present, Valentine’s Day is the second most popular day to send printed cards, behind Christmas.  According to the Greeting Card Association, in 2017 Americans were expected to spend $1 billion on cards.  In total, spending for the holiday fell around $18.2 billion.  With these numbers, it is no surprise that year after year the print industry continues to ask consumers the age old question in its cards—will you be my Valentine?

By Marley Niesz

Choosing the best color for your packaging design

4 Powerhouse Practices EVERY Direct Mail Marketer Should Know

By Marley Niesz

In my last blog post, I discussed the differences between digital and traditional print and the ways data is transforming the printing industry. This week, I would like to explore a marketing medium that continues to evolve as rapidly as print does—direct mail. One of the only things I remember from my college marketing classes is this: direct mail consistently outperforms other marketing touchpoints. Year after year, direct mail receives the highest response rates of any form of integrated marketing communications.  On average, consumers keep mail for 17 days before discarding it.  That’s over two weeks of brand exposure to anyone who happens to pass by or pick up your mailpiece. Can digital marketing do that? Linger for two weeks, giving you a tangible piece you can lay your hands on and leaf through at your convenience? To digital marketers, direct mail marketing may seem archaic — like a thing of the past. Actually, it is a more relevant and powerful marketing platform today than ever before. How can you harness it’s potential? Here are four direct mail practices that every marketer should know and use.

1. Personalization and Customization

According to Corporate Communications Group’s Direct Mail Infographic, the average American household receives 454 pieces of marketing mail per year. And 41% of American’s actually look forward to checking their mail every day. So how can you send distinguishable direct mail that speaks specifically to each recipient? Send them mail created just for them—personalized and customized to each person. As I mentioned in my previous blog, data is the key to variable and personalized direct mail. Simply putting a customer’s name on a piece of mail is no longer an impressive marketing feat. Research shows that 54% of consumers want to receive mail from brands that interest them with promotions that are relevant. Because of this, brands should be tracking their consumers digital footprint to better understand and anticipate their purchase intent. They can then use that data to customize and send direct mail campaigns to the same audience with exactly the product(s) or promotion(s) they were looking at online. (This is known as “retargeting” with direct mail.) Of all industries, travel and hospitality currently print the highest volume of direct mail. Using cruise lines as an example, they could easily distinguish themselves from their competition by sending a brochure detailing the exact trip the traveler was previously researching online. But, as we see on a regular basis here at CCG, personalization can be applied to all types of direct mail in all industries. Interested in how your company can refine its direct mail strategy to include personalization? Contact Corporate Communications Group today and let us help you personalize your next direct mail campaign. 

2. Prospecting

Let me ask you a question.  Which would you rather receive from your best friend? A generic email or a meaningful, handwritten letter? Unless you’re a robot, or perhaps a psychopath, I would assume the latter. Like a good friendship, prospecting is all about relationship building and putting in effort. High-value prospects deserve to receive a package in the mail with their name on it and a personalized message. This package could also include print samples specifically for your prospect or branded merchandise relevant to their industry. Just like general consumers, your prospects receive hundreds of mailpieces every year. It is up to you to print something memorable for them. Direct mail can cut through the noise of the digital world and allow for further engagement with prospects, in addition to whatever online channels you may be using. 

3. Cross-Channel Promotion

As I was researching for this blog, I scoured a number of websites for data and information. Afterwards, I went onto Facebook to check the notifications on the Corporate Communications Group page and the first thing I saw was an advertisement for one of the websites I had just visited. I immediately recognized the brand, and now it has been in the back of my mind all afternoon. This is an example of cross-channel promotion and digital retargeting. Reaching customers across multiple platforms in a short period of time is crucial to brand recognition, sales, and customer retention. Wise marketers will incorporate direct mail into their omnichannel marketing strategy as well.  Let’s analyze a scenario. I’m on the Target® website comparing makeup concealers from Brand A and Brand B. Later, I see an advertisement on google from Brand A for the exact concealer I was looking at, and I receive an email from Brand B. Two days later, I receive a post card advertising the concealer from Brand B. Statistics show that most consumers would move forward and purchase Brand B. These statistics can be found in the CCG Direct Mail Infographic. Our infographic research also taught us that 73% of American consumers prefer being contacted by brands via direct mail and 60% of catalog recipients visit the website of the company that mailed them the catalog. More touchpoints within your marketing strategy often leads to more sales. At CCG we work with our clients every day to optimize their cross-channel promotional strategy—let us do it for you too!

4. USPS Promotions

Every year, the United States Postal Service releases new promotions to help businesses save money and encourage direct mail marketing. The remaining active 2020 USPS promotions include incentives to combine direct mail with mobile shopping, a personalized color trans-promo promotion, and Informed Delivery®. The mobile shopping promotion can be used when mailing marketing mail. Through this promotion, USPS is encouraging the integration of mobile technology and mail. Any direct mail campaign that uses QR codes, other barcode formats, and app-enabled QR code payment options is eligible to receive a discount as long as the company has registered and dropped the mailpiece into the mail stream before the New Year.  Another promotion is personalized color trans-promo which is for first class, presort mail only. The USPS would like companies to modernize their customer bills and statements while also promoting other products and services. Companies qualify for this promotion if they use variable color print in their transactional statements, including personalized marketing messages. This promotion also runs through the end of 2020.  (Every year when the USPS announces their promotions schedule, CCG includes it in our marketing publication ENGAGE and posts it on our website.)

Finally, USPS is offering an Informed Delivery promotion through November 30, 2020 for marketing and first-class mail. Informed delivery is a program that is gaining users faster than any other USPS program, sending registrants a daily email digest showing them all letter-mail that will be arriving that day. The email consists of the scanned images of their incoming mail. But the great thing about informed delivery is the role it plays in the omnichannel strategic approach I mentioned earlier. Customers who enroll in this program receive a free, secure account with a digital mailbox that they can log into to view their mail before it is delivered to their house or they can view it in the email sent directly to their inbox. A mail campaign is eligible to receive a discount from the USPS if the mailer has registered their direct mail campaign with the USPS and provided a coordinating digital image and URL which the USPS will replace their scanned image with. When the recipient receives their email or checks their digital mailbox, they can click on the four-color image of the direct mail piece to be taken directly to a coordinating page online, providing a second touchpoint to the original piece of mail. There are already many case studies which show the value of Informed Delivery for marketers.  In a case study for the Pittsburg Pirates, the organization was able to perform a split test of three complementary calls-to-action on the digital version of one mail piece. Using the Informed Delivery technology, the Pirates saw which call-to-action received the highest response rates of the three, and helped them to understand what promotions were more likely to prompt people to take action.  Informed Delivery is an easy, free way for marketers to increase impressions and response rates.  On the consumer side, marketers should encourage their customers to enroll in Informed Delivery as it allows customers to immediately respond to their offer digitally before receiving the mailpiece. Are you signed up for Informed Delivery? You can create your free account and sign up HERE.

In summary, direct mail is far from antiquated and still considered to be the best way to engage your customer base.  Direct mail can be used in conjunction with digital trends in an effective multi-touch strategy when trying to reach prospects or current clients. Just don’t forget to get personal with personalization and take advantage of the promotions that the USPS has to offer—there’s no reason your next direct mail campaign cannot outshine the rest.  Check out our Direct Mail Marketers Guide here and order your copy today