WASHINGTON: The US Postal Service has developed an integrated campaign to engage CPG companies and increase their use of product sampling.
Set to launch on January 27, 2013, the “Simple Samples” program was created to help brands reach consumers by sending them samples of products.
“With our connection to 150 million delivery points, six days a week, we can make the connection with the brand to the house, and nobody can do that, so when we see sampling and a need out there for [brands] to get things in people's hands in the home, the Postal Service is the perfect partner for that opportunity,” explained Marc McCrery, manager of specialty shipping at the service.
The USPS has struggled financially in recent years as consumers have moved to digital communications methods. It closed 2012 with a loss of $15.9 billion and defaulted on $5.6 billion in September to avoid bankruptcy.
The organization has tried to make a comeback by launching promotions and introducing new shipping rates to make mail options easier for customers and more affordable.To make product sampling less complicated for CPGs and brand managers, the USPS changed its requirements to allow companies to drop off samples, messages, and coupons to a post office with names and addresses of individuals in the region, said McCrery. This allows brands to target specific audiences with their products, but they also have the option to send a mailing out to all people in the area.
The USPS is working on an “integrated communications plan” to spread the word about the program, said Lisa Bobb-Semple, manger of lightweight parcels at the organization. The federal agency is handling PR internally for the initiative, she added.
Through a combination of communications, advertising, and social media, the USPS is reaching out to mail service providers and CPG companies to raise awareness about the program and the impact of product sampling on consumers.
In the social space, LinkedIn is the key channel for reaching brand managers and decision makers, but McCrery said the USPS may use other social channels to get in front of consumers and leverage their demand for product samples.
McCrery added that more decisions are being made by consumers in their homes rather than in store aisles because of the sluggish economy. Therefore, sending products directly to residences is important because it reaches consumers before they go shopping.
In addition to the “Simple Samples” program, the USPS is planning a promotion for August and September 2013 to encourage CPG companies to use the mail service by offering a 5% discount on qualifying samples, said Bobb-Semple.
“We're really putting our money where our mouth is and giving a reason to try us again,” she added.
This story was updated on December 12 with additional information about the Postal Service's financial situation.