Readers of this blog often learn how the government regulates modern instruments for customer engagement – social media, texting campaigns, e-commerce sites, the use of influencers, and more. Old habits die hard, however, and many marketers continue to use the U.S. Postal Service to connect with consumers. When those mailers want to reach a large audience, Marketing Mail (formerly known as Standard Mail) may be the answer. Mailers use USPS Marketing Mail to deliver catalogues, circulars, flyers, advertising, and both printed and non-printed merchandise designed to enhance the tactile experience of opening the mail and create a positive association with the sender.

Last month, the USPS proposed to exclude all “merchandise” from letter and flat-shaped Marketing Mail. This represents a big change to the Postal Service’s eligibility rules, and has the mail industry up in arms. The proposal, published in the Federal Register on August 23, 2018, would allow “[n]o merchandise or goods … of any type” to be included in letter or flat-shaped Marketing Mail, “regardless of ‘value.”

The proposal, if it becomes final, could have far-reaching effects. As we have noted elsewhere, enactment of the USPS’s proposal will hurt nonprofit organizations, whose fundraising solicitations often include merchandise premiums. The proposal may harm many advertisers and marketers also. For example, it would prevent advertisers from including in Marketing Mail sample credit or gift cards, magnets, stickers, and all manner of free premiums which would otherwise meet Postal Service requirements for machinability. This could drive up advertisers’ postage costs. Marketing Mail is often the lowest-cost class of mail, and the most cost-effective channel of communication of any kind. For a typical solicitation piece, the First-Class rate of postage can be double the Marketing Mail rate or more for the same piece.

The Postal Service is accepting comments on the proposal until October 22, 2018. See 83 Fed. Reg. 42624 (2018).