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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

It's What's Inside the Bag that Counts

I received a mailer today, typical of non-profit/cause marketing organizations. It was, however, timely and creative. It was a brown paper bag with my contact information in the recipient field, a Los Angeles return addresss, and a headline ("There's a complete Thanksgiving dinner in this little bag!) plus supporting body copy on the other side.

First of all, I've never seen a paper bag mailed. Secondly, I've never seen a paper bag used so spite of the fact that by sheer dumb luck, I received a Macy's Brown Bag mailer this week as well, also constructed of paper bag quality paper.

The reason for dedicating this post to this mailer is the fact that as the new age marketing tools gain in popularity, effective promotions will increasingly require a mix of traditional and new media within greater integrated campaigns. In spite of the fact that the USPS is in deep sh*t financially and can be a unruly to deal with in some instances, they are a great resource for effective direct mail programs.

I learned this while operating a business I co-founded in New York City a few years ago - Hydra Worldwide, a real estate business with other business operations, including the partial ownership of the Shanghai Sharks in China (Yao Ming's old team). While promoting a Chinese opera event at the Avery Hall at Lincoln Center (, we had to do a number of creative mailers. We took a class at the USPS and used their consultative arm to ensure our pieces could be handled and in cost-efficient ways.

Within blue-chip organizations or at the higher rungs of a business, you may never need to come this close to the details. To master all aspects of a business and a trade, however, it helps to know all parts of any business inside and outside. I read a famous quote one time that read "to learn the rules, you first must know how to break them." I think this meaning behind this quote is valid in this instance and in the marketing craft in general.

So, I wouldn't ever have thought you could mail a brown paper bag. I was obviously wrong. The moral of the story? The USPS: can't live with them, but visit them when you want to consider truly unique direct mail campaigns.

P.S. In reviewing my mail, I also just received the USPS marketers' demonstrate the trouble they are in, one piece of advice given is to disregard branding/style guide requirements since they can hinder the effectiveness of mailers. Oh-vay!


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