Snail Mail Stages a Comeback - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Snail Mail Stages a Comeback

Snail Mail Stages a Comeback

By Meghan Walsh



Because … dancing penguins!!!

By Meghan Walsh

The United States Postal Service last year sent out a flier to every American household advertising its “Magical” Mailbox Holiday Experience campaign — a reminder to customers and businesses alike that the post office is still relevant in today’s digital era.

It’s fine to be skeptical.

I know I can’t recall seeing a postcard show up at my address. But a USPS press release tells us that if we point our iPhones at any of the country’s 156,271 iconic sidewalk mailboxes using a USPS “augmented reality” app (called USPS AR), your phone pulls up a blinking Christmas tree … or dancing penguins — after which you see a handy link for ordering stamps and free boxes. (I did it. I didn’t get penguins, but did watch Christmas presents fly around on my screen.) 

Desperate gimmick?

Yes, the rise of digital technology has battered the post office. Since 2006, the government-run biz has downsized by 193,000 employees, while slashing $15 billion in operating expenses and 21,000 delivery routes. “Magical” mailboxes are only the latest of many attempts to fight back. And USPS knows this issue inside and out. That’s why the campaign — which, ironically, it advertised on TV and social media ads — tries to remind customers to rely on their trusty neighborhood mailman. But it also wants advertisers to start seeing the postal service as a double-whammy way to reach potential customers, says post office communications rep Zy Richardson. It’s called multi-platform advertising, using both print and digital channels. The claim, according to post office marketing teams? That slapping QR or AR codes — those little bar codes lurking on more and more physical products these days — on paper mailers works as a bridge to get consumers online. This all from Richardson.

But here’s a twist.


Percent of us that still read ads in our mail


Unlike the mail, QR scans are “not really going anywhere,” says Susan Uhl, vice president of customer services at the global marketing company Epsilon. But direct mail, she says, is still “an extremely effective channel.” It hasn’t even ditched much for the past 20 years. A Pivotal Research Group study showed advertisers have continued to devote between 11 and 12 percent of their total advertising budgets to reaching your mailboxes. The report also showed that 67 percent of us still read or scan advertising mailers.

Another surprising tidbit? According to a consumer behavior study, millennials actually prefer snail mail marketing to the online ads that show up on social media feeds or in email boxes. The bigwigs are on board. Says Uhl: “We certainly believe in it.”

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