Production: Trend Setting
With all the attention on the debt crisis this summer—including the debt crisis at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS)—it's easy to overlook how fascinating direct mail has become in our multichannel age. Many brands continue to use mail in their media mix—and why not? With Americans inundated by branded and non-branded commercial messages across all channels at a rate of thousands daily, the few precious pieces in the mailbox each day represent a highly engaging, tactile moment of interaction.
This past summer, marketers integrated a number of innovative direct mail techniques and technologies to make their campaigns stand out in consumers' mailboxes. Four specific trends seen were:
- The addition of smartphone-enabled QR Codes to direct mail pieces to qualify for a 3 percent discount during the USPS' "Summer Sale."
- The use of variable data printing (VDP) to increase volume share.
- Experimentation with the "magalog"—a combination magazine- catalog—in both letter and flat-sized formats to drive leads and traffic.
- Several brands tested new textured finishes and coatings in their direct mail creative packages.
QR Codes and the
USPS Summer Sale
While USPS management will have to examine the impact of the Summer Sale on mail volume, suffice it to say, many mailers scrambled to apply a QR Code to mailings to earn the 3 percent discount—sometimes applying the code to an already-planned mailing. However, the spirit of the sale seemed to be to show how mobile and direct mail can integrate to support both channels.
Unfortunately, some marketers jumped right in for the upfront savings alone. We saw numerous examples where QR Codes were applied without forethought—often with landing pages that were not optimized for mobile viewing. In some cases, the QR landing page messaging was not well integrated or coordinated with the primary purpose and messaging of the mail piece. Without a well-developed and integrated strategy, mail recipients were often left confused and frustrated.