PRC Backs Customized MarketMail

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Direct marketers soon may be able to design much more creative direct mail pieces following the Postal Rate Commission's approval of a U.S. Postal Service request to establish a new Standard mail category for irregularly shaped pieces.


The new classification, called Customized MarketMail, needs approval by the postal service's Board of Governors. The board may vote on this at its next meeting, in August, but insiders said it might be approved in a special phone vote in July.


Currently, for pieces less than one-quarter-inch thick and 3.3 ounces in weight, mailers are not allowed to send non-rectangular pieces, irregularly shaped pieces or pieces that have holes and voids.


The ruling, if approved, would allow these types of pieces to be mailed as long as they meet certain mail preparation requirements and are drop-shipped to destination delivery units. These pieces also would be ineligible for special services such as forwarding and return.


Many in the industry see this new category as a boon for DMers.


Martin Bernstein, manager media/transportation and postal relations at JC Penney, said "there is a little higher cost involved, but if our marketing department wants to be more innovative in what they are putting out to the customers, then this gives them the ability to do it."


He also said that "we like the direction the USPS is going in versus the direction of standardization, where everything has to look, feel and be the same otherwise you can't mail it."


"Our customers are very intrigued by the concept. It's eye candy for them," said Tom Becker, president of ImageWorks Manufacturing, a printer of metal and plastic products in Park Forest, IL. A division of his company, ShipShapes, would be a vendor of Customized MarketMail.


Becker said his company has worked to develop Customized MarketMail prototypes through an exclusive accessories company for BMW in the United States. Once the Board of Governors approves the category, Becker said, he hopes to start a formal CMM program for the company.


"I believe there will be quite a bit of interest, and I think everybody should test it because it is quite different," he said.


Becker said that because of the costs associated with CMM, "it will be a premium piece, so I think it will be used on a situational basis. I think there will be market segments where it works very well, because you are almost guaranteed impact. It's probably wonderful for branding of new products."


Becker also said that mailers sending direct mail in high-density areas would get the most bang for their buck with CMM.


"Because you are drop-shipping to the DDUs, the initial drop-ship costs will be less expensive if you are dropping in a major metro area versus a rural area," he said.


Prices would be based on Standard Regular and Nonprofit Mail basic tier rates plus a residual shape surcharge. According to the PRC's filing, under the current schedule, the total charge would be 46 cents per piece for Standard Nonprofit mail and 57.4 cents for Standard Regular mail.


Mandatory drop-shipping -- via Express Mail, Priority Mail or plant verified drop shipment -- entails additional costs. Insiders hope that going forward, the USPS will lower the costs and perhaps eliminate the surcharge.


The filing said "eligible mail volume for this new niche classification is expected to be small." Details of the filing are available at www.prc.gov.


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