Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Adios, Postnet. There’s a new guy in town.

The days of the Postnet barcode—familiar to anyone who has ever received a direct mail letter, postcard, newsletter, flyer, or magazine in the last 20 years—are numbered.

Faithful old Postnet is riding off into the sunset.  He has served us well, but like Sheriff  Will Kane in High Noon, Postnet knows when it is time to move on.

Looking a bit like the USPS in Trouble!white picket fence around the retirement cottage that Sheriff Kane and his good wife Amy built far outside of town, Postnet has vertical bars of uneven heights aligned along a flat bottom line. 
In its time, Postnet directed billions of pieces of mail to its intended destination.  But Postnet is being retired by the USPS.  In its place comes IMB—Intelligent Mail Barcode—the new gun in town.  

IMB looks a bit jittery—maybe having overdosed on some of that strong coffee Sheriff Kane left behind.  IMB has vertical bars of uneven lengths extending both above and below an imaginary midpoint.  But he’s more robust than Postnet could ever be.

Officially taking over on January 28, 2013, IMB promises services that Postnet could only dream of.  IMB, for instance, will allow mailers to track progress of their mail through the US Postal System, like shippers can track packages through FedEx or UPS.
IMB also promises that if you use him, you can qualify for Full-Service mail.  (That’s the lowest appropriate automation rate for letters, flats and postcards.)  And as a final sweetener, if you quality for Full-Service, he will provide you with address tracking services.   For FREE!

But there is never a Free Lunch.  Like any new guy in town, IMB has to make and enforce rules.  His rules.  And if you don’t comply, he’s taking names.

Rule #1.  IMB doesn’t want to ride alone.  He demands that his IMB posse show up on your Permit Reply Mail and Business Reply Mail, too.  Be sure to deep six old artwork, too, so that going forward you’ll be printing only the right stuff.

This is use it or lose it time.  Use up your old stock with Postnet barcodes now or recycle it in January. It won’t be worth a plug nickel after that.

Rule #2.  Your mailshop will take care of this for you.  If you want to see just how much work is required, go to httpp://ribbs.usps.gov.  Click on “Intelligent Mail Barcode” in the upper left corner.  Then click on “Latest News.”  You’ll get an in-depth explanation and a 10-step verification process that IMB requires.

Rule #3:  If you want tracking services (aka “Tracking”), you must step up and register to get a unique mailer ID.  Apply through the Business Customer Gateway you’ll find at USPS.com.

Bad news for end-users:  this one is on you.  You’ve got to sign up.  And there may be a cost involved.

Rule #4.  IMB wants his brand to be noticeable, so he’s requiring a barcode clear zone in the lower right corner of every envelope/postcard/self-mailer.  That means he is mandating a block free of all copy or graphics (from the lowest right corner) 4” to the left and 5/8” tall.

Even if your IMB goes above the recipient’s name, IMB wants a barcode clear zone. 

After all, a man’s got to have his space. Be sure your graphic artist knows the rules.

Rule #5.  What he says goes.  Period.

Once IMB is in charge, there’s no looking back.  You’re with him or you’re agin him.  And IMB will take no prisoners, so you’ve got to get with the program.

Git along, Little Doggie.  Be sure your house is in order. 

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