"Care Packages" have been a staple of college life for generations. Similarly, "Goodie Bags" have warmed the cockles of many a soldier stationed far from home. These packages from home, lovingly filled with Mom's chocolate chip cookies, popcorn, and other treats fill the void of separation just a bit.
Now the USPS has glommed onto the "Care Package" concept in hopes that manufacturers will realize the benefit of mailing tempting samples to consumers hungry for a bit of good news in their mailboxes.
The "Samples Co-Op Box" concept will contain a mix of health and beauty aids and snack food products from multiple packaged goods companies. The companies—who no doubt have a "no competition in my box" agreement with the USPS—agree to share postage costs.
The USPS program is set to launch in early May in Charlotte NC and Pittsburgh PA, where about 200,000 consumers will become the guinea pigs for this new postal initiative.
After delivery, the USPS will distribute surveys to consumers to gauge their response to the program—and to the products they received. The test will be considered a success if the manufacturers see an increase in purchases or brand awareness, and if the USPS gets good feedback from the consumers. Analysis of delivery costs, per-box cost and effect on brand awareness as well as retail sales data will take several months to complete.
If the results are favorable, (and what's not to love about receiving free chocolate chip cookies in the mail?) the USPS could do further tests to determine optimum price points or could roll out nationally without further testing. TBD.
The post office does not expect to create revenue from the test. But a permanent program could make millions of dollars for the hard-strapped postal service which lost $8.5B in 2010 and has already lost more than $1.1B in the first two months of 2011.
Product sampling is big business, generating $4B a year in the US alone. The USPS wants to stake its claim on part of that lucrative enterprise and simultaneously chip away at its debt.
Free cookies in my mailbox? Bring 'em on, I say.
I'll take mine with macadamia nuts, please.