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USPS challenges college students

The winning entry in the Direct Effect Innovation Challenge used texture, scent and more to engage readers.

Dozens of college students got a crash course in direct mail marketing at the recent Direct Effect Innovation Challenge in Charlotte, NC.

This USPS initiative aims to teach the value of direct mail, part of the Delivering for America plan to educate the next generation of marketers.

The students had three hours to create a campaign for sports network ESPN that encourages young adults to get involved in the “proud and passionate fanbase culture” of Southeastern Conference (SEC) athletics, according to the challenge instructions.

Their campaign had to include a direct mailpiece and touch on the SEC “lifestyle” and “We love it here” branding.

The winning entry from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington team centered around “We love it here” and incorporated elements such as texture, scent and sound (sent through near-field communication to a recipient’s cellphone) to interest readers.

“It truly is inspiring to watch these young future marketers incorporating mail as part of their strategy — the creativity, the energy, it’s just contagious,” Margaret Pepe, executive director of product management for the Postal Service, said in a five-minute video recap of the event.

“This is their first time before a live client. They will be able to say that they had an opportunity to apply what they learned and pitch that client — and maybe see that actual campaign come to life in their own mailbox.”

The challenge is one part of the Direct Effect program, which offers colleges and universities tools and resources on integrated marketing. The Academic Outreach and Direct Effect Program Blue page has more information.