Mail Pieces From Outer Space

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USPS Innovation VP Gary Reblin shows how the force of digital technology is already with direct mail.

The lights dimmed at the start of the “Irresistible Mail” session at the National Postal Forum in Nashville. Suddenly, a fuzzy, holo-transmitter image of USPS Innovation VP Gary Reblin in Jedi Knight garb appeared on a screen to tell those present that, after 100 years as direct mailers, they were about to enter an era of remarkable change.

Transformational change was the theme of this week's National Postal Forum, where Postmaster General Megan Brennan vowed to spend billions to establish a digitally integrated future for mail. Reblin's mission was to launch the new Irresistible book of ideas that mailers could bring to life using existing digital and printing technologies. So many mailers responded to last year's first edition with inspired digitally enhanced mailings that USPS instituted an Irresistible Mail Award.

A sampling of ideas from this year's volume:

Near field communications: One advantage NFC has in scoring high customer engagement numbers is that people don't need to download an app to take part in the experience. Several Android phone models come NFC capable. An NFC chip is imbedded on the movie screen in this mail-order drive-in theater. Place the phone on top and the video begins playing.

QR codes: The demise of QR codes has been greatly exaggerated. New print technology that can blend the code into surrounding images has given it new life. The one in this example is in plain sight, but scanning it brings the dunk to life and then connects viewers to social media sites for reviews of the sneakers or to a transaction page for immediate purchase. 

Send to site: This tablet-specific piece uses a vellum overlay and refers recipients to a website. Once users access the proper site and slip their tablets under the vellum, they're treated to a live rock-and-roll experience.

The South Dakota Tourism Board was the winner of the first Irresistible Mail Award. Agency Lawrence & Schiller teamed with Nahan Printing on a piece that used a pine-scented scratch-and-sniff element to lure people to the Badlands. Augmented reality, video, and specialized print materials were used by the other finalists: Baylor University, Dell Computer, Eskridge Lexus, Northern Ohio Printing, and Structural Graphics.

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