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Fingerhut Is First Customer in RPN Tryout

Fingerhut Direct Marketing Inc. is the first national customer of a controversial U.S. Postal Service pilot project to allow broader use of repositionable notes on mail — for a price.

Fingerhut is using repositionable notes, also called RPNs or yellow stickies, on catalogs in two tests that went into the mail Monday, said Mike Sidders, director of e-commerce and new customer acquisition for Fingerhut. The company is participating in the postal service's yearlong trial of RPNs on direct mail, one that some say could set a precedent allowing the USPS to charge rates based on response and not processing costs alone.

If the Fingerhut test campaigns succeed, the company may use RPNs in its fall mailings, Sidders said. Direct marketers should be willing to try RPNs despite the added costs charged by the USPS for their use, he said.

“As a direct marketer, you look to mitigate as much of the costs as you can,” he said. “But also as direct marketers, we're inherently testers. If the gains more than compensate [for] the cost of a piece, we should use it.”

The RPNs are 3-by-3-inch removable notes that can be adhered to the outside of mailers. The USPS developed them in conjunction with 3M, maker of the Post-it Note.

The USPS is charging 0.5 cents per piece on First-Class mail and 1.5 cents per piece on Standard mail and Periodicals for the use of RPNs. The postal service said that RPNs do not add to the cost of processing.

Part of the value in RPNs lies in that they can be removed and saved, serving as a long-term reminder and call to action for a prospect, Sidders said. But more importantly, yellow stickies immediately attract notice, working almost subconsciously to draw a prospect's attention and make a mail piece stand out.

“It's the interruptive value of the piece itself,” he said. “There's something in society that's ingrained itself that when we see one of these notes, we pay attention.”

Previously, RPNs had been free to use on automation-rate letter-size mail. The postal service angered some mailers when it got approval in January to run a market test expanding the use of RPNs to other classes of mail but charging a fee.

The test ends April 3, 2006, after which the Postal Rate Commission will consider implementing the new RPN fees permanently. A coalition of mailer organizations, including the Direct Marketing Association, Association for Postal Commerce, Magazine Publishers of America and the Mailing & Fulfillment Service Association, unsuccessfully fought the test and opposes the added fees.

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