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March 28, 2012

Attack of the Bloated Mailbox: The USPS Wants More Direct Mail - Should You?

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by Ron Daly

We've all heard about the troubles the postal service has faced these last few years. The recently reported loss of $5.1 Billion in 2011 doesn't give one much hope that the ailing institution can survive, but they're not going down without a fight. 

The USPS is making a push to get more merchants involved in direct mail campaigns. They're incentivising the prices for a product called "Every Door Direct Mail". They don't need your name or address - the pieces go to every mailbox in a given zip code. The USPS is hoping to make at least $750 million in revenue...that's roughly 14% of what it lost last year. 

So, what you have is a product that's cluttering up mailboxes for everyone, unsolicited, that's going to generate millions in revenue for an organization billions in the hole.

And where's the consumer in all this? Can they opt-out of mailings they didn't ask for anyway? Do we not have a choice in the matter? 

Now, obviously, I'm biased - for twelve years, I've been preaching a reduction in wasteful paper in every area of the credit union. But even as a consumer, this is disappointing. I could go without a Saturday delivery if it meant not getting a mailbox filled to the brim with coupons I won't use. And yes, "couponing" is a popular hobby, but even those people with shopping carts full of deoderant and beef jerky can't possibly need this many extra coupons...can they? 

Beware of the bloated mailbox. There may not be anything we can do to stop it. 

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Ron:

Great points. The stupidity of this program knows no bounds. The environmental-unfriendliness of it alone should be enough to kill it.

But look at the marketing implications: Marketers who take up the USPS on their offer will run marketing campaigns which will enable them to expand the reach of their offer.

The result of this will be a lower response rate than that achieved by previous campaigns.

A lower response rate will make direct mail look like an even worse channel than it already does.

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

There are regulations in the electronic world with the CanSpam Act laws. It forces legitimate organizations to work on real relationships and engagement. Why not hold organizations accountable for the printed junk mail as well or manage the do not mail list with a little more teeth as to fines. Fortunately I think the Consumers will have a say and there are technologies evolving to get Junk Mail out of the mail delivery like https://www.paperkarma.com and 41pounds.org and others that are helping the consumers have a choice in what they receive in the mail. Maybe the Post Office has cut a deal with the makers of Viagra... so we can expect thousands of these printed messages showing up to our door step with the "Every Door Direct Mail" campaigns. I can see the Headlines US Postal Service subsidizes male enhancement products... postage sales skyrocket 500%. They need to focus on better service and change with the times. What an opportunity miss for the US Postal Service in Digital Mail Services area. Maybe the words bloated organization could have been replaced with INNOVATIVE organization... Not Likey..RIP

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