Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of DeAngelis’ article titled “Fire Pit Musing, Part Two,” which appeared in the July/August issue.

Recently, as I was waiting for the fire pit crew to arrive, I took the opportunity to sit by the aforementioned fire pit and catch up on my industry-related reading. Now, as someone old enough to remember listening to Genesis (with the incomparable Peter Gabriel as the front man) on an 8-track player in my Chevy Vega while heading home to play countless hours of Pong on my Atari console, I do print out reading material greater than one paragraph. I not only find this much easier on the eyes, but it also provides excellent kindling for this failed Boy Scout.

Marketers Value Direct Mail

The first article off the pile was a foreshadowing of my evening to come. The article, titled “The Lost Genius of the Post Office,” discussed how the United States Postal Service (USPS) could have been one of the government’s most innovative agencies for much of its existence. Beginning in the 1960s, however, postal service innovation was stunted by either outside influences or from the lack of want or know-how internally. Of particular interest were the history lessons of the pneumatic tube system and mail by missile. And who knew that hybrid mail has been around since World War II?

There were, however, many parts of the article that could lead a reader to some incorrect conclusions. For example, while allowing that “the Post Office spawned innovations such as the catalog mail-order industry,” the article mentioned Sears, Roebuck & Company. Being that Sears discontinued the “Big Book” catalog in the early 1990s, I was left with the impression that the author did not feel that this is still a viable industry. Many surveys have shown that marketers still value direct mail for many reasons. Among those are the tactile nature of mail and the uniqueness it brings as we continue to move deeper into digitalization.

Being Didactic About Direct Mail

It will be incumbent upon the Postal Service to educate both mail owners and advertising agencies about the benefits of using direct mail in their marketing campaigns—and, indeed, it is offering edification. The Postal Service was very involved in helping with the formation of the Integrated Media Research Center (IMRC). The IMRC website, imresearchcenter.com, is there to provide access to case studies, research, and information to help companies get the most from their marketing campaign strategies.

The USPS has also launched a website, www.irresistiblemail.com, where one can go to learn about the possibilities when innovative print and technology join forces to create powerful and interactive experiences; in other words, “When paper and pixels converge.” These leading-edge innovations include:

· Video-enhanced print allows marketers’ messages to “come alive” in their customer’s hands after embedding a paper-thin screen into a mail piece.

· Digital-to-direct gives retailers an opportunity to re-engage abandoned digital shopping carts by leveraging the consumer’s online shopping behaviors before purchase. By sending a personalized offer via mail that ties into the items viewed—but not bought—online, companies can see a significant increase in sales activity.

· Buy Now helps companies direct potential customers to their social media accounts via digitally enabled mail. One cataloger, Z Gallerie, found that its customers liked to share photographs of their “premier catalog on their coffee tables and even going to lengths to style a photo with our catalog as the focal point.” Z Gallerie encouraged its catalog subscribers to post their photos on Instagram and tag them with #PagesofStyle.

Mail has also evolved to the point that it allows marketers to become more informed about its performance. The Intelligent Mail barcode gives powerful insights that will help make targeting, timing, and relevance more scientific.

The Core of Innovation

The article I was reading also mentions the Postal Service’s pilot grocery delivery service program. It says that this experiment is doomed to fail.

Perhaps that will prove to be correct. Failure is at the very core of innovation. Very few products start out being a success in their original iterations. The well-known WD-40 got its name because the formula that makes up the product we use today was the result of the 40th attempt to build a degreaser and rust protection solvent. Bubble wrap was created in 1960 as an attempt to create trendy new textured wallpaper.

We need a United States Postal Service that will continue to find new and innovative ways to use that textured wallpaper.

Vincent DeAngelis is Vice President, Postal Relations, and Shipping Product Management for Neopost USA.