Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Postal Service Sells Out, Gun Shops Not Among Beneficiaries

Consumers didn't do much with the Postal Service's make-your-own stamps -- they couldn't. There were lots of restrictions, like no recognizable people allowed, imposed after Unabomber and Jimmy Hoffa stamps appeared. But now, the rules have been relaxed a bit -- for the benefit of advertisers. E-mail has been eating into profits lately.

According to Ad Age, Hewlett-Packard will get the first commercial stamps. One design shows the HP logo. Another shows a nostalgic photo of the company founders.

Ad Age, quoting Cymfony marketer Jim Nail and consultant Joe Calloway predicts a consumer backlash:

Images on "postage stamps have always been George Washington or the flag or scientists, educators and innovators, reflective of the culture," said Jim Nail, chief marketing officer of media-and-marketing consultant Cymfony. "There has to be a backlash of some sort. Here it is, this sacrosanct space where we've never seen ads before."

However, he believes the backlash will not result in lost sales, but rather a more psychological hardening of resolve against the overall inundation of advertising.

"If there is a negative reaction, I think it will be along the same lines of the way some people reacted when baseball and football stadiums began selling corporate naming rights," said Joe Calloway, an independent branding consultant and author. "There was a great outcry, but then, for better or worse, it wore off and we all became used to it."

Technically, these stamps aren't stamps -- as far as I can tell it has to do with two things: the fact that you pay more than the face price for them, and the fact that the price is next to your image. So the stamp is the narrow strip that has the bar code and the postage price. It's a weak technicality, one stamp collectors aren't paying any attention to, but it's real.

Zazzle is one of the three retailers of personalized stamps. Their rules for business stamps stipulate that the following are off limits:

  • Alcohol and tobacco
  • Promotions and sale announcements ('come to our 50% off sale')
  • Promoting the stamp as a coupon ('bring this stamp in and get 10% off')
  • Gambling related industries
  • Sex-related industries

But what about guns? The 'no weapons use' rule appears in the guidelines for personal stamps, but isn't mentioned in the business rules.

So I sent Zazzle the following message:
I noticed that customers aren't allowed to create stamps depicting weapons use, but that rules for business stamps didn't mention a guns -- just alcohol, tobacco, and sex. May I create a stamp for my gun business? May I use the word 'gun' or picture of a gun?
Zazzle's response:
Thank you for your email to Zazzle.com.

You can advertise your gun store but you can't have any images of the product. And you can have the text "gun" but it cannot be glorified in the stamp image. I understand that this is probably confusing, but basically you can have the text "Harry's Gun Store" or what ever the name of your gun store is, but you cannot have text where it is advocating the use of guns. I hope this makes sense, please feel free to submit your stamp image to Zazzle and our Content Management Team will review the image for you.

Thanks for using ZazzleStamps!

Best Regards,
Content Management Team
Zazzle.com, Inc.

I'm glad Tony cleared that up.


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