USPS Confirms 2014 Direct Mail Promotions

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Foti: Get colorful with QR codes.
Foti: Get colorful with QR codes.

The U.S. Postal Service's 2014 promotions calendar, officially announced this week, reprises popular programs with some new wrinkles aimed at increasing use of First Class, shipping, and digital technology. The biggest rate discount being offered, 15%, is for a spring promotion for First Class marketing pieces.

“Five or 10 years ago a lot of marketers used First Class as a marketing medium because it results in higher response,” says Tom Foti, manager of direct mail and periodicals for product development at the Postal Service. “Lately, we don't see as much of it, so we're encouraging marketers to try moving up again.”

One of the bright spots in the Post Office's 2013 earnings report was the 8% rise in its shipping business, and one 2014 promotion offers an additional discount for exceeding a threshold for Priority Mail resulting from direct mail efforts.

Following is a rundown of all mailing promotions for the coming year. All dates are 2014 unless otherwise noted.

Branded Color-Mobile Technology/ February 1- March 31: This is an upfront 2% postage discount on all pieces that incorporate creative elements such as color or branding in QR codes. “With our last QR code promotion, we kept hearing from mailers that QR codes are ugly and take up creative space, so we're challenging marketers to get creative within the code itself,” Foti says. Qualifying mail must contain a code that leads to a mobile-optimized experience. Branded codes qualify with one color other than black, white, or gray; others require two. Registration: December 15, 2013-March 31.

Premium Advertising/ April 1- June 30: Another upfront discount—this one for 15%—will be awarded to First Class mail pieces composed entirely of marketing or advertising content. Eligible are direct mailers that did $6 million or more in Standard Mail postage from October 1, 2012, through September 30, 2013. Registration: February 15-June 30.

Earned Value Reply Mail/ April 1- June 30: Mailers that include First Class Business Reply Mail and Courtesy Reply Mail enclosures will earn a two-cent credit on each piece returned during the promotion period. Participants in last year's reply mail promotion will get three cents off if their replies increase in 2014. Registration: February 15-March 31.

Digital Personalization/ May 1- June 30: Personalization in the mail piece, as well as a response mechanism that takes the recipient to a personalized URL (PURL), qualifies the mailer for a 2% postage discount. Unique barcodes are required to link consumers with PURLS, which they can continue to access for personalized content. Registration: March 15-June 30.

Emerging Technology-NFC/ August 1- September 30: Mail pieces embedded with near field communication chips or other technologies allowing for integrating mail with digital technologies will merit 2% discounts at the time of mailing. “NFC is used for mobile payments and we see an opportunity here where people can come home, open a mail piece and immediately make a purchase with a mobile device,” Foti says. Registration: June 15-September 30.

Color Print in First Class/ August 1- December 31: First Class transactional pieces sent in IMb full-service mailings that include the use of four-color printing on bills and statements receive 2% discounts at the time of mailing. Color inserts and pre-printed paper stock don't count. This promotion focuses on top 100 mailers that can afford the investment, which USPS claims results in better return rates. Registration: June 15-December 31.

Mail Drives Mobile Commerce/ November 1- December 31: This is an upfront 2% discount on mail pieces that include a mobile barcode or similar technology that can be read or scanned by a mobile device to lead the recipient to a shopping site. The piece must contain text near the link with instructions and information about the landing page. If customers meet a certain Priority Mail threshold as a result of increased merchandise shipping, they will receive an additional 1% off. Registration: September 15-December 31.

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