Stamps to Become a Marketing Vehicle

By Caroline E. Mayer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Advertising might soon be pushing the envelope.

The U.S. Postal Service is allowing companies to create their own branded stamps for first-class mail. Instead of flags, you can expect to see a company logo; instead of photos of famous Americans, you might see pictures of your local real estate agent.

It is a test, part of an effort to reverse the decline in first-class mailings. As USPS spokeswoman Joanne Veto said, "We want to make mail more interesting to consumers."

The first company to buy in is Hewlett-Packard, which is using its corporate logo and pictures from its early days -- including founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard -- on mail sent to customers and partners.

"HP views this as an opportunity to extend the brand," said Gary Elliott, vice president of brand marketing in a statement. "It is a new 'brand canvas.' " The cost can be as little as 10 cents extra per stamp. The money goes to vendors who manufacture the stamps.

For the past year, consumers have been able to create personal stamps, with pictures of babies, pets and other loved ones, for about twice the cost of a regular stamp. But advertising was barred from stamps until earlier this year when Congress overturned a 19th-century law barring commercial images on stamps.

Can a scratch-and-sniff stamp promoting a product such as soda be far behind?

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